Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel win 51-49 over Splice Construction Magic - May 18, 2022
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel remains in the hunt for the ANZ Premiership playoffs following a hard-fought 51-49 win over the Splice Construction Magic in Rotorua tonight.
While the Southerners were arguably the superior team on court in several facets of play, the Magic’s knack for hauling itself back into contention undoubtedly deserves praise.
Despite working tirelessly to earn a handy buffer in each quarter, the Steel had frustratingly relinquished its advantage on the scoreboard by the end of every phase with the scores locked 14-14, 26-26 and 38-38 – the first time in the league’s history the odds have been level in all three consecutive quarters.
In the end, it simply became a classic showdown and the Steel managed to hold the advantage when it mattered most – the final whistle – by nailing the last three goals of the encounter.
Steel goal keep Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit emerged as the unsung hero with two crucial intercepts swinging the momentum in the dying stages. Her combination in the circle with Kate Burley left the Magic attack reeling at times and set the standard throughout the court for their team-mates.
Super sub Kate Hartley delivered a commendable effort in the wing defence role usually filled by tenacious wing defence Renee Savai’inaea, who was ruled out of the match with a calf injury.
Even goal shoot George Fisher got into the defensive action with an intercept to her credit, although her 92 percent shooting accuracy was the most important aspect of the stats sheet and saw her rewarded with MVP.
“It was good to get a W … we’ve been getting to the point where we’ve been niggling away and we’ve been coming off worse on the flip side so it was nice today to come through that and take it. I’m super proud of the girls,” she said.
Fisher’s tussle with Magic goal keep Erena Mikaere was relentless.
“It’s fun. You start to learn to love the battle a wee bit. It’s always hard back there, especially this season when I think at times I’ve been like ‘oh my gosh’ but no, we’re growing, we’re building and there’s more to come.”
Steel captain Shannon Saunders was rapt to snatch the victory.
“It’s good that we’ve learned from the last couple of weeks when we’ve lost it in that last quarter.
Although we went down in that last quarter today, we managed to fight back and get the win,” she told Sky Sport.
“Personal errors still come into it a bit and when we’re put under pressure we do silly things so if we can eliminate that from our game then I think we would be able to win by a bit more.
“You’ve probably seen in the last few games we fade in the last quarter and I think that’s down to a bit of Covid but the girls will take a lot from that win and get a bit of our mojo back. We’ve got a big few days coming up so we’ll hopefully get some more wins.”
The Steel return home to Invercargill for a double-header at ILT Stadium Southland this weekend, completing a grueling run of four games in eight days.
In an uncompromising outing which could have gone either way, the match hung delicately for 60 minutes.
Showing their growth, the Magic, playing their third game in five days, pushed all the way and largely had the better of the run home with opportunities to nail back-to-back wins. However, the Steel renowned for their tenacity, took their chance when it came late in the piece and defended with their lives to keep the Magic at arms-length.
Coming back from injury, goal defence Georgia Tong got her first start in recent weeks while shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes continued their growing connection under the hoop for the Magic.
With the first blow of the whistle, umpire Kristie Simpson created another piece of history when taking charge in a record-breaking 120th national league match, the sides playing their part in providing all the ingredients of a tight, closely-contested and absorbing match-up.
The Steel were out of the blocks quickest, skipping out to an early lead on the back of the patience, reliability and control from wing attack and skipper Saunders while Fisher’s timing, accuracy and positioning was first-class.
Ekenasio and Mes showed good movement to provide openings under the Magic hoop, Mes having more success from long range, a late surge from the home side helping to leave the scores all-square at the first break.
There was more of the same on the resumption, both teams showing plenty of intent but unable to fully stamp their authority.
The Steel were a little more accurate on their transitional play while the Magic got stuck at times with laboured forward momentum.
With defenders Selby-Rickit and Burley playing prominent roles in helping create turnover opportunities, the Steel threatened on numerous occasions to wrest control when building little buffers but the Magic showed plenty of grit to stay in touch.
In a similar pattern to the first quarter, several Magic surges late in the piece ensured the contest remained on a knife-edge, the teams unable to be separated when heading into the main break at 26-all.
Mounting defensive pressure paid immediate dividends for the visitors in the opening exchanges of the third quarter, pushing the Steel out to a five-goal buffer. Not to be outdone, the Magic responded with some slick passages of their own, building on their control to string together a momentum-changing few minutes.
For Ekenasio and Mes the shots dropped on a more consistent basis while Mikaere and Hannah Riding provided a staunch and effective wall of defence in the Steel circle.
With all hands to the pump, the Magic produced a rollicking finish to the stanza, an unanswered six-goal scoring streak resulting in the unlikely scenario of the scores being level once again, when the teams went into the last change locked at 38-all.
Official Result and Stats:
Splice Construction Magic: 49
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 51
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 27/33 (82%)
Bailey Mes 22/32 (69%)
Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 33/36 (92%)
Georgia Heffernan 9/12 (75%)
Saviour Tui 9/12 (75%)
MVP: George Fisher (Steel)