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Magic notch second win against gallant Steel

Magic notch second win against gallant Steel

Greater accuracy across the game propelled Avis Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to a hard-fought 54-49 win over a plucky Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Invercargill on Saturday.

Clinching a thrilling extra-time one-goal win last week, the Magic made it a second straight win but facing a rejuvenated Steel, the visitors were forced into a 60-minute grind before pocketing the points.

Returning to their southern base for a first home match after four straight losses on the road, the Steel, who are rebounding from a tough injury toll, showed large doses of their renowned resilience, patience and dogged determination in a closely-fought tussle.

In a terrific shooting display, superior accuracy eventually sealed the deal for the Magic but the Steel did enough to secure a bonus point, courtesy of finishing within five to post their first points of the season.

Building on her playing minutes since returning from injury, Saviour Tui got her first start of the season, slotting in under the hoop at goal shoot while rising midcourt talent Ivari Christie got the second start of her young career.

The Magic stuck with the side that served them so well last week with wing defence Charlotte Elley, a new recruit this season, lining up in her 100th national league appearance.

With a couple of lead changes through the first quarter, both teams delivered solid outcomes in the opening exchanges.
With her strength in the air, strong hands and accuracy, Tui made an encouraging start for the home side while combining effectively with her shooting partner Georgia Heffernan.

At the other end, the experienced shooting combination of Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio were seamless in converting all their attempts, helping the Magic slip into the first break with a 14-12 lead.

The second stanza followed a similar pattern, the defensive hustle of Kate Burley helping the Steel level up the scores. Neither team were able to make a decisive move, the nip and tuck continuing, with both sides enjoying some memorable standards of play.

Tui continued to impress under the Steel hoop but came under increasing pressure from the tall figure of Erena Mikaere who provided a disruptive and effective resistance.

At the other end, Ekenasio and Mes fronted as a seamless shooting duo, their connection and chemistry in working the circle was pin-point perfect. The positioning of Mes was a particular highlight, the pair helping keep the Magic’s noses in front.

A late push gave the Magic some breathing space when leading 28-24 at the main break, Mes returning an impressive 16 from 16 shots.
Eseta Autagavaia took over from Tui on the resumption as the Magic, on occasion, threatened to pull away but the Steel refused to buckle.
The hosts scored the first two and from there, both sides continued to execute exciting passages of play in an ever-absorbing contesting. In-circle defender Courtney Elliott was introduced for the southerners, in her 50th outing, as the impasse remained with neither side able to gain the decisive game-changing moment.

In a bid to pressure more turnovers, Claire Kersten moved from centre to wing defence for the Magic while Georgie Edgecombe came off the bench to centre.

Having the better of the third spell, in which they surpassed their highest score of the season to date, the Steel continued to apply the heat. However, the Magic remained steadfast in clutching on to a two-goal advantage when going to the last turn with a 40-38, leaving the contest up in the air for an exciting run home.