A decisive first half assault with almost perfect shooting from the Ascot Park Hotel Steel has ensured a 65-50 victory over the Splice Construction Magic in Stadium Southland.
Even with shooter George Fisher out for another week recovering from concussion, the Steel were dominant from the outset and established a 14-goal lead at halftime.
Fisher’s replacement, Grace Namana, was shooting the lights out from the moment she first received the ball. The Dunedin solicitor, who’s been a training partner for the Steel, worked in perfectly with Tiana Metuarau, even though they came under intense scrutiny at times from the Magic defence.
Namana finished her game with 35 from 38, while Metuarau, the eventual MVP, stepped up her shooting responsibility. She missed just one goal – with three minutes of the match remaining – to end up with sterling figures of 29 from 30, and her court work was just as important.
But the Magic won’t go home dejected. They got into gear to claim the third quarter by one, and only lost the final quarter by two.
An early advantage to the Steel of five grew to eight during the first quarter. Magic shooter Caitlin Bassett couldn’t get her hands to the ball, stymied by Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
Bassett was replaced by Khiarna Williams just before the end of the quarter, but the Magic lagged behind 16-9 at the break.
The Steel went on a run of six when they returned to the court, Shannon Saunders placing some precise ball into Namana and Metuarau, who finished it off perfectly.
Throughout the court, the home side contested every pass and the Magic struggled to find pathways through to their shooters. While Williams was accurate, she didn’t get enough opportunities under the hoop with Fifita smartly positioned to cut off the flow of ball repeatedly.
Up 30-17, the Steel brought Selby-Rickit to the bench, nursing a long-standing leg injury, giving Sarahpheinna Woulf a chance to make her mark in the defensive circle.
Kate Heffernan at centre for the Steel supported Saunders on attack with some superb feeding.
At halftime, the Steel led 35-21, and Namana and Metuarau had only missed one goal between them.
Knowing how much ball they’d lost or thrown away, the Magic came back in the third quarter a much more disciplined and cohesive side. Georgia Tong came on at goal defence, moving Erena Mikaere back to goal keep, and together they made a difference, putting better pressure on the Steel attack.
Bassett returned to the game halfway through the quarter, which also made a difference combining with the teenage Williams. A searing pass from Williams into her goal shoot just before the quarter ended ensured the Magic won the third spell, 15-14.
Still down by 13, 49-36, it was always going to be a big ask for the visitors to threaten the lead in the last quarter, but nevertheless, they contested it all the way through and treasured the ball more.
Some great work from wing defence Renee Savai’inaea made certain the Steel won the final quarter, 16-14.
Magic midcourters Katie Te Ao and Georgie Edgecombe got valuable court time, while the Steel attackers Ali Wilshire and Kiana Pelasio were also given minutes in the final quarter.