The might and the momentum of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel was on full display in their emphatic 73-53 victory over the Splice Construction Magic.
In their first home game of the season in Invercargill, the Steel punished every misstep by the Magic and never eased off the accelerator.
They expanded their lead with every quarter, but made the biggest impact in the second spell – winning by 10. They also took the opportunity to get all 10 players on court, and never lost a beat when introducing fresh legs.
The Steel took an early advantage, of five, in the opening minutes – finding it easier to drill the ball into their shooters, and making wise use of Lenize Potgieter, who knows the Magic defenders inside out after two seasons alongside them.
But at the same time, Magic goal keep Kelly Jury was making life uncomfortable for the Steel’s goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
The Magic made up lost ground in the final minutes of the quarter, scoring five in succession, to be behind by just one, 16-15, at the first break.
Strong defence through court from the Steel disrupted the Magic’s rhythm at the restart, and the home side once again raced out to a five-goal lead.
Jenna O’Sullivan made her first appearance of the season for the Magic, coming on at goal defence and allowing Casey Kopua to sit back on Potgieter. It immediately worked a treat with Kopua making two crucial tips one after another.
But the Steel found other ways of threading the needle to their goal shoot, and at the other end Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Abby Erwood cut off the Magic’s flow. Another lightning-fast straight run of five put the Steel nine goals ahead with five minutes of the half remaining.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit began to put up her share of the shots, fed meticulously by MVP Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders, and at halftime the Steel found themselves well in control, up 39-28.
The Magic turned to Kelsey McPhee at goal shoot to try to make a difference to the scoreboard, moving Abigail Latu-Meafou out to goal attack. And McPhee made a solid input (18 from 20).
But there was seemingly little the Magic could do to stop the Steel from surging. Up by 16, Potgieter (with 39 from 43) went to the bench to give Jen O’Connell valuable court time. O’Connell managed to stand strong against Kopua, shooting 17 from 18 in her stint.
Kopua, though, was leading by example in her indomitable style – with four intercepts and three rebounds – and at the same time urging her team to lift their game. Down 54-40, it seemed as though the Magic would need a miracle to make any more impact on the match.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 73
Splice Construction Magic: 53
Champion Data Match Centre
Shooting Stats – Steel:
Jen O’Connell 17/18 94%
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 17/25 68%
Lenize Potgieter 39/43 91%
Shooting Stats – Magic:
Abigail Latu-Meafou 24/30 80%
Kelsey McPhee 18/20 90%
Monica Falkner 11/13 85%
MVP: Gina Crampton (Steel)