Steel shoot out the lights in Hamilton
In a goal-scoring fiesta, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel notched up some impressive records as they beat the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, 76-60, in Hamilton tonight.
Still on a high from their giant-killing victory over the Pulse last week, the Steel never relinquished the lead throughout the match, which saw the highest score of the ANZ Premiership season.
Towering goal shoot Jen O’Connell gave the highest scoring performance of her career at this level – scoring 53 goals from her 55 attempts.
After a poor performance against the Northern Stars last week, the Magic were still reeling from injury problems with captain Casey Kopua on the side-line with her leg in a moonboot.
But they were definitely in the hunt in the first half, and Lenize Potgieter’s 100 percent shooting game – scoring 41 goals – was a high-point of the match.
With Kopua out, the Magic shared the circle defender roles between three up-and-coming players: Kate Levien, Kate Lloyd and Hannah Ridling, one of the stars in the Wai/BOP Beko League team this season. They all played with heart; Lloyd ending the match with four intercepts.
But from the outset the Steel looked hungrier, establishing an early four-goal advantage by forcing the Magic attack to make unnecessary errors.
But the Magic began to play the Steel at their own game, making a series of crucial intercepts to equal the scores just before the end of the quarter.
Sam Sinclair was at her scrabbling best, picking up wayward ball, and making sure her shooters were in a good position to convert. And both shooters were in faultless form – Potgieter and Monica Falkner not missing a shot.
The Steel held the narrowest of leads, 19-18, going into the second spell, returning to the court with a change in goal keep - Abby Erwood on for Courtney Elliott, who was on the side-line receiving acupuncture to her calf muscle.
With Erwood quickly getting her eye in, the Steel opened up the gap to six. Gina Crampton (the game MVP) used the full width of the court to scorch a path to her shooters, who were also on song. O’Connell took the lion’s share of the shots - 26 from 27 in the first half.
The Magic managed to half the deficit in the final minute before halftime, and trailed 39-36 at the break.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit was again the maestro of the Steel’s defence, frequently cutting off the flow of ball to the Magic circle, and the visitors extended their lead to 58-51 before the final period of play.
The Steel only became more dominant and confident, giving future defensive star Kate Heffernan vital time on court. Under pressure, the Magic made more errors which increased the gulf between them at the final whistle.