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Mystics snatch thriller over Magic

Mystics snatch thriller over Magic

A last-gasp goal from Grace Nweke was enough for the MG Mystics to grab a 62-61 win over the AVIS Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in a nail-biting sixth-round clash in the ANZ Premiership in Rotorua.

The win solidified the Mystics' lead at the top of the table, but it was a hard-earned victory, with a superb defensive effort from their circle proving key in the final quarter.

The outcome replicated the round three result between the two teams, won 48-47 by the Mystics in extra time. It looked as though the game would again go to added time, but Nweke sunk the key goal in a last-chance penalty to secure the win.

The Magic took no time to hit their straps, their links in the attacking third into the shooting circle looking slick from the first whistle. Shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes impressed with their understanding, and backed that up with consistent accuracy on goal.

Mes found plenty of space on the base-line and excellent elevation on the rebound, working well with Ekenasio to provide plenty of options for midcourters Georgie Edgecombe and Simmon Wilbore, who showed timing and patience as they worked the ball in.

Nweke suffered a couple of uncharacteristic misses early on, but settled into her work and offered a solid target under the post for her midcourt, with wing attack Peta Toeava delivering some well-targeted long-range feeds.

However, the Magic worked hard on midcourt defence to negate the Mystics' pace on attack, and were rewarded with a 16-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

Magic coach Mary-Jane Araroa brought on Claire Kersten for Charlotte Elley at wing defence in the second quarter, that injection proving valuable in further restricting the Mystics flow on attack as a strong start to the quarter saw the Magic jump out to an 11-goal lead midway through the spell.

But with Nweke finding her range - and having a better supply of ball to work with - the Mystics outscored the home team 7-3 in the closing minutes to restrict the Magic's lead to 34-28 at half-time.

The change in tempo was due in no small part to a defensive shift in the Mystics circle, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson moving from wing defence to partner Phoenix Karaka at goal keep.

Mystics coach Tia Winikerei made another change at the start of the third quarter, bringing on Filda Vui for Monica Falkner as the visitors' midcourt started to fire, with Toeava's feed into the circle and diligent defence proving key alongside the work done by centre Tayla Earle in linking defence and attack.

Again the Mystics finished strongly, taking the quarter 20-13 to lead 48-47 with 15 minutes remaining.

It looked like they had the game under control after opening out a 52-47 lead early in the final quarter, but the Magic - with Kersten now at centre - fought back with five goals on end to level the scores.

And the see-sawing continued, Nweke hitting her straps with four goals, with Falkner back on court to keep the shooting circle moving as the Mystics looked to cling to a two-goal lead until the final whistle.

And while the Magic capitalised on a midcourt turnover to level the scores with 30 seconds remaining, the Mystics were patient in making the final goal off their centre pass.