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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Avis Magic – round five

May 11, 2024

The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel have been left ruing a fourth quarter catastrophe in their showdown with the Avis Magic in Rotorua.

Boasting the upper hand for the vast majority of the ANZ Premiership encounter, the southerners stumbled at the final hurdle when it mattered most.

Arguably, the 45-54 score line wasn’t a fair reflection of the Steel’s efforts but, with the game locked 38-all heading into the final stanza, it tells an accurate portrayal of where it all went wrong.

As Magic defenders Erena Mikaere and Oceane Maihi ran riot, the Steel succumbed to the pressure and struggled to find cohesion on attack.

Breaking a tight deadlock, Magic flew home with a dominant final quarter to deliver a compelling 54-45 win over Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Rotorua on Saturday.

Captain Kate Heffernan didn’t sugarcoat it.

“That last quarter was disappointing. We just let errors creep in and a cluster of them,” she said.

“Before we knew it, they were five goals up and it happened really fast. Magic did well on defence to disconnect us and force errors.

“It’s happened in past games so we really do have to watch that back and see what goes wrong.”

Magic captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio’s initial reaction to the victory was simply “hallelujah”.

“Our defence won that game for us because we definitely didn’t do our job down the attack end. Erena is the heart of our team … she has so much mana,” she said.

“Credit to the Steel – they kind of made us a bit shaky with what we were doing.”

Steel wing attack Ivari Christie delivered an MVP performance.

“She’s awesome. She’s just so fast and when she does her strengths, she’s learning then how to nail them. It’s great to see her get this opportunity and I love playing with her,” Heffernan said.

After suffering a narrow one-goal loss last week, the Magic rebounded in style to post their second win of the season while completely shutting the Steel out of a bonus point opportunity.

The Magic remained with their settled starting seven of recent weeks with the ever-improving trio of Ali Wilshier (wing attack), Claire O’Brien (centre) and Georgie Edgecombe (wing defence) combining in the midcourt.

On the other hand, the injury-plagued Steel were forced into another reshuffle after Shannon Saunders was ruled out of the match, resulting in explosive young up-and-comer Christie getting the nod at wing attack and South African import Jeante Strydom lining up at goal defence.

The visitors’ got the early jump to forge a four-goal buffer where the shooter-to-shooter link between Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan continued to flourish for the Steel. With Christie playing a prominent role in spearheading the southerner’s attack line measured with the Steel’s renowned ball retention, the Magic found few chinks in their opponent’s arsenal.

With the Magic threatening to close the gap, the Steel held them at bay to close out the first quarter with a 15-12 lead.

With Wilshier and O’Brien swapping positions on the resumption, the Magic were out of the blocks quickly. Flexing their defensive muscle, the combination of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Takarangi orchestrated plenty of turnover opportunities.

In three short minutes, the home side had levelled the scores, finding their flow on attack while shooters Saviour Tui and Ameliaranne Ekenasio found their own shooter-to-shooter timing and execution with some standout play.

Hitting the lead for the first time after six minutes was a short-lived moment for the Magic, the Steel wresting back the slightest of edges to nose their way back in front of a tight and entertaining match.

The Steel crept out to a three-goal lead as the quarter progressed, the Magic ensuring it didn’t stretch out too far when the southerners took a 27-25 lead into the main break.

Breaking out to a three-goal lead early in the third quarter, which was quite significant in the context of the game, the Steel were unable to stem a determined fightback from the home side.

Led by captain Ekenasio, playing a strong hand through her increased volume and accuracy under the hoop while also being a disruptive influence on defence, the Magic produced a spirited reply to the resilient Steel.

A re-jigged defence line with Oceane Maihi producing an energetic performance from goal defence and Takarangi slotting in at wing defence, combined to cause plenty of problems for the Steel. With her long reach, Mikaere was also a menacing presence, disrupting the visiting shooters who became increasingly unnerved as a result.

High in intensity and with little separating the combatants, an exciting run to the line was a given when the teams headed into the last break all tied up at 38-apiece.

Both ends for the Magic were instrumental in a decisive final quarter for the home side. At the shooting end Tui burst into a dominant force through her athletic and accurate return under the post while at the opposite end, Mikaere was in irresistible form through her turnover and rebounding abilities to deliver her best game of the season and a winning outcome for the Magic.

Official Result and Stats:

Avis Magic: 54
Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 45

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 26/33 (79%)
Georgia Heffernan 18/24 (75%)
Martina Salmon 1/2 (50%)

Shooting Stats - Magic:
Saviour Tui 33/37 (89%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 21/25 (84%)

ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Ivari Christie (Steel)


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