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Magic deny Steel first win with strong final quarter

Magic deny Steel first win with strong final quarter

A final quarter squeeze by the AVIS Magic has denied the Ascot Park Hotel Steel their first win of the season, with a 52-45 victory at home in Hamilton.

It was the Magic’s first win in five matches – and the desperation of both sides to claim victory was obvious from the outset.

The Steel produced one of their most consistent efforts of the season, winning the middle two quarters and leading by one going into the final spell.

But it was the composure of shooters Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (who ended on identical figures of 26 from 28) and Georgia Takarangi on defence, that saw the Magic storm home in the last 15 minutes with a 16-8 quarter win.

There was still much to applaud in the Steel performance, especially the energetic defence of Kate Burley and the confident shooting of Saviour Tui, who scored 34 from 37 (92 percent).

The Steel made an explosive start, with a Kate Heffernan tip on defence helping them towards a 4-0 lead.

It was over three minutes before the unsettled Magic finally opened their account, then an Erena Mikaere rebound and the clever hands of Mes saw the Magic score four in a row.

Over-exuberant passing into the Steel circle allowed the Magic to finally take the lead, which they maintained to the end of the quarter through some cloying defence in the Steel scoring third.

Down 13-10 going into the second spell, the Steel stepped up their attack again - Georgia Heffernan showing great balance, sharp vision into shooting partner Saviour Tui and smart movement in the circle.

On defence, Kate Burley made her presence felt with three telling defections that gave the Steel the opportunity to add four in a row and take a two-goal lead. Tui’s confidence continues to grow this season, scoring 18 from 19 – many of them from long-range – in the first half.

But the Magic stayed in the game through some superb work from Mikaere and Takarangi and at the other end Ekenasio, who dictated the Magic attack, and the home side drew level at halftime, 25-all.

The strength of understanding between Ekenasio and Mes saw the Magic leap out to a two-goal advantage, but as the intensity between the two sides didn’t abate, the Steel clawed their way back into the lead, 37-36, at the end of the third quarter.

Ekenasio and Mes switched bibs for the final spell and it appeared to pay dividends immediately. Initially the change didn’t rattle Burley, who pulled off a crucial deflection just when the Magic looked to be on a roll.

The defence from both sides in the final stages was immense, and confusion in the Steel circle allowed the Magic to sneak ahead again by two. Mes did the job she was asked to, getting her hand to the ball on defence, and scoring long shots – and a run of five put the Magic into a position where they finally wouldn’t be caught.