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Stars hold out Magic to maintain their winning shine

Stars hold out Magic to maintain their winning shine

The Robinhood Stars kept their hopes of a place in the Finals Series alive with a well-crafted 61-55 win over Avis Magic in Auckland on Sund

With both teams in must-win territory, the Stars, on a high after their dramatic extended extra time win in the last round, continued their winning momentum while the Magic’s hopes of featuring in the play-offs took a big hit when they were also denied a bonus point.

The Stars greater consistency won the day in a match they led from start to finish, a surging last quarter rally from the Magic proving too little too late.

The Stars enjoyed a greater share of the possession in the first half before it evened out in the second, the home side making the most of it through Maia Wilson, who had a captain’s day out under the hoop when converting 47 from 49

Ahead of the match, both teams and the crowd observed a moment’s silence to honour the memory of netball stalwart Taini Jamison, who passed away on Friday. The first New Zealand coach to guide the Silver Ferns to a world title, in 1967, Jamison had life-long association with Rotorua and was an avid Magic supporter.

The Stars opted for Holly Fowler and Elle Temu as their in-circle defensive pairing while there were no surprises in the Magic starting seven, Claire Kersten slotting in at wing defence to help nullify the impact of Gina Crampton.

The Magic quickly retrieved an early 3-0 deficit before the teams went on a long goal-for-goal exchange. A clutch of enforced errors from the visitors finally opened the door for the Stars, who grabbed the opportunity to take a 16-13 lead into the first break.

The combined defensive efforts of Temu, Fowler and wing defence Samon Nathan provided an effective wall as they continued to make life difficult for the Magic’s attacking progress while also keeping dangerous shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes quiet.

Dominating the midcourt, with centre Mila Reuelu-Buchanan a prominent figure, the Stars pushed on with Wilson in fine form under the hoop while forging an eight-goal lead.

Unable to snap their opponent’s strong presence, the Magic injected the 1.86m Amy Christophers into goal defence, hoping her extra height would put the brakes on the Stars scoring impetus.

The Stars full-court defence was key to limiting the Magic’s options, who struggled to find their rhythm and flow on attack, and who trailed by 10 at one stage. However, three in a row heading into halftime, gave the Magic a glimmer of hope when trimming the Stars lead to 35-28.

In a bid to repair some of the earlier damage, Kersten reverted to centre for the second half while Charlotte Elley came off the bench to wing defence. That was rewarded when they scored the first two goals but the impetus was short-lived.

The Stars quickly re-found their touch, clinical play on attack, the unwavering of accuracy of Wilson under the hoop and relentless defensive pressure took its toll on the Magic.

The visitors were not helped by untimely lapses, the pressure mounting as they were forced to play catch-up. Good in patches but lacking any measure of consistency, particularly on attack, proved costly and leaving the Magic facing an uphill battle when trailing 51-41 at the last break.