Southern Steel Beat WBOP Magic
Pushed all the way, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel weathered a searching examination before subduing a gallant WBOP Magic 65-61 in Rotorua on Sunday.
Losing to the Steel by 13 goals five weeks ago, Magic came a lot closer second time around, the pair delivering a thrilling clash as momentum swung back and forth.
The Steel, however, showed their great finishing ability when under the pump, retaining their unbeaten record with a calm efficiency while Magic secured an all-important bonus point for their worthy contribution.
After playing on Wednesday, it was a quick turnaround for Magic while Steel were looking to regain their swagger following a mixed outing the week before.
Presenting with their strongest line-ups, both teams got away to fast clean starts, the pair unable to be separated during the first 10 minutes. There was the odd defensive turnover for each but no hint of either side gaining the ascendancy.
With both teams delivering passages of copybook netball on attack, a couple of untimely errors from the home team opened the door for the Steel.
The visitors pounced with a six-goal unanswered scoring burst while offensive in-circle defensive pressure helped hand the Steel a 16-12 lead at the first break.
The floodgates looked set to open when the Steel skipped out to a six-goal lead soon after the resumption but far from done, Magic backed themselves with a confident response.
Hard-working skipper Casey Kopua produced the initial inspiration, the tireless defender picking off a couple of crucial turnovers while feeders Grace Rasmussen and Ariana Cable-Dixon were patient and precise in feeding the shooters.
The young shooting pair of Lenize Potgieter and Monica Falkner showed admirable composure in steering the rejuvenated Magic into the lead nearing halftime. However, defender Te Huinga Selby-Rickit continued to stamp her mark on the game with her ability to swoop at the right moment.
Reeling in important opportunist ball, the unassuming defender helped Steel grab a slim 33-32 lead at the main break.
Showing their experience and ability to always have someone available, Steel gradually took control through a defining third quarter.
The connection between shooters Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid stood out while at the other end of the court, ever-impressive defender Jane Watson was an effective spoiler as the Steel continued to apply the pressure.
Potgieter remained a force under the Magic hoop but with the Steel punishing the slightest of errors, it was the visitors who pushed out to a 52-46 lead at the last break.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 65 def WBOP Magic 61
Champion Data Match Centre:
Shooting Stats – Magic
Potgieter: 46/49 @ 94%
Falkner: 12/16 @ 75%
Malesala: 3/3 @ 100%
Shooting Stats – Steel
Fowler-Reid: 49/56 @ 88%
Selby-Rickit: 16/21 @ 76%
MVP: Gina Crampton (Steel)