Southern Steel take their chances and make the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic pay - May 15, 2017
by ANDREW VOERMAN AND SCOTT DONALDSON
Give the Southern Steel enough chances, and they'll make you pay.
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic found out the hard way in Rotorua on Sunday, going down 65-61 in a hard-fought, top-of-the table clash that was the Steel's closest call of the season so far.
The Steel are now unbeaten through nine matches in the ANZ Premiership, and they showed why in this one, never letting the Magic - who put up quite the fight - unsettle them.
They just kept at their game, and ultimately, made a better fist of their chances, especially when it came to offensive rebounds, where they had a 10-3 advantage, thanks to the height of their shooter, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
The first match between these two ended in a 13-goal win to the Steel, and in that one, they profited plenty from double-teaming Magic shooter Lenize Potgieter. They tried that tactic again in Sunday's match, and although Magic goal attack Monica Falkner was able to keep them honest at times, it still caused problems.
Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham was relieved to come away with the victory.
"I am very pleased, considering how close it got at times," she said.
"I know in the second quarter we weren't as good at converting our turnover ball, but I think it got better as the game went on, I think any ball we got we really tried to concentrate on making sure we scored it."
The two teams went goal for goal for most of the first spell, with both of them blowing opportunities to open up a lead after forcing turnovers, until the Steel finally made good on one with four minutes remaining, then on another, and another, and opened up a six-goal lead that became five at the break.
That was where it remained for the first half of the second quarter, as the Magic missed a couple of chances to draw closer after winning turnovers, but they kept persisting, and were eventually able to pounce, bringing the scores within one on the back of a big defensive play by Kelly Jury.
They were then able to draw level and take the lead, as the Steel's usually well-oiled machine clogged up, but fell behind again, by one, as the halftime whistle sounded, fumbling a chance to level the scores after another Jury turnover in the dying seconds.
The scores remained close throughout most of the third, and it was the Steel who would have been more disappointed, missing out on several chances to extend their lead early on, though they did capitalise at the end of the period, opening up a six-point margin once more.
Needing a fourth-quarter comeback, the Magic were valiant as the final spell began, but soon found the margin growing. They pulled back within four, with five minutes to play, and that was where it finished, giving the Magic a bonus point that could prove crucial in the playoff race.
In the end, they had nine fewer shots than the winners, which meant their superior accuracy - 90 per cent to 84 per cent - didn't matter.
AT A GLANCE
Southern Steel65 (Fowler-Reid 49/56 Selby-Rickit 16/21)
Waikato-BOP Magic61 (Potgieter 46/49, Falkner 12/16, Malesala 3/3)
Q1: 14-19; Q2: 32-33; Q3: 46-52