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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Avis Magic - Round 10 - May 8, 2023

Victory slipped from the clutches of the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel, beaten 52-45 by the Avis Magic in Hamilton tonight.

It was a tussle from go to woah and to be denied even a bonus point was a cruel blow – especially given the fact the biggest margin at any stage was only achieved in the final minute of the game.

With both teams fronting up for their second game of the round, the showdown lacked a bit of oomph at times but the determination couldn’t be faltered.

For the majority, Steel played with the freedom of a team with nothing to lose while, in contrast, the Magic had the weight of expectation to contend with.

With the honours locked 25-all at the halfway mark, the battle to gain the ascendancy continued blow for blow. Ultimately, it was the Magic who held their nerve to take the honours.

It was a frustrating loss for Steel captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.

“It was just like we ran out of steam. Credit to the Magic – they just pushed and pushed and were patient with the ball. They made us work on d and they punished us on attack,” she told Sky Sport.

“Happy with those first three quarters but still wanting that complete game.

“That last quarter, we needed to get more ball on d because they made mistakes on attack and we need to be able to pick those up and continue to get more ball. We’d hold them up but we just couldn’t get it in the end and it cost us.”

Selby-Rickit was excited to play the final two games on home turf at ILT Stadium Southland.

“Our fans are always supporting us. We see the messages and they’re always encouraging. We haven’t won one yet so we’re gonna need them behind us. They are like our eighth or ninth player – they are so loud.

“We’re really looking forward to meeting the Stars and then hopefully some revenge on the Magic in the final game.”

Magic captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio felt for her opponents.

“I wasn’t proud of all the moments out there but really proud of how we hung on and came back. We knew it was going to be an absolute battle out there. We’re actually cheering for Steel to get a win as well, we just didn’t want to be the team to give it to them at all,” she told Sky Sport.

A final quarter squeeze did the trick. It was the Magic’s first win in five matches – and the desperation of both sides to claim victory was obvious from the outset.

The Steel produced one of their most consistent efforts of the season, winning the middle two quarters and leading by one going into the final spell.

But it was the composure of shooters Bailey Mes and Ekenasio (who ended on identical figures of 26 from 28) and Georgia Takarangi on defence, that saw the Magic storm home in the last 15 minutes with a 16-8 quarter win.

There was still much to applaud in the Steel performance, especially the energetic defence of Kate Burley and the confident shooting of Saviour Tui, who scored 34 from 37 (92 percent).

The Steel made an explosive start, with a Kate Heffernan tip on defence helping them towards a 4-0 lead.

It was over three minutes before the unsettled Magic finally opened their account, then an Erena Mikaere rebound and the clever hands of Mes saw the Magic score four in a row.

Over-exuberant passing into the Steel circle allowed the Magic to finally take the lead, which they maintained to the end of the quarter through some cloying defence in the Steel scoring third.

Down 13-10 going into the second spell, the Steel stepped up their attack again - Georgia Heffernan showing great balance, sharp vision into shooting partner Saviour Tui and smart movement in the circle.

On defence, Kate Burley made her presence felt with three telling defections that gave the Steel the opportunity to add four in a row and take a two-goal lead. Tui’s confidence continues to grow this season, scoring 18 from 19 – many of them from long-range – in the first half.

But the Magic stayed in the game through some superb work from Mikaere and Takarangi and at the other end Ekenasio, who dictated the Magic attack, and the home side drew level at halftime, 25-all.

The strength of understanding between Ekenasio and Mes saw the Magic leap out to a two-goal advantage, but as the intensity between the two sides didn’t abate, the Steel clawed their way back into the lead, 37-36, at the end of the third quarter.

Ekenasio and Mes switched bibs for the final spell and it appeared to pay dividends immediately. Initially the change didn’t rattle Burley, who pulled off a crucial deflection just when the Magic looked to be on a roll.

The defence from both sides in the final stages was immense, and confusion in the Steel circle allowed the Magic to sneak ahead again by two. Mes did the job she was asked to, getting her hand to the ball on defence, and scoring long shots – and a run of five put the Magic into a position where they finally wouldn’t be caught.

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Saviour Tui 34/37 (92%)
Georgia Heffernan 9/13 (69%)
Jess Allan 2/2 9/13 (69%)

Shooting Stats - Magic:
Bailey Mes 26/28 (93%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 26/28 (93%)

MVP: Ameliaranne Ekenasio


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