Match Report Steel v Magic - 28 June 2021
As a polar blast raged outside, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel produced plenty of heat at ILT Stadium Southland tonight.
Relentless from the outset, the southerners outpaced the Splice Construction Magic to earn a 65-50 ANZ Premiership victory.
Despite being forced to enlist a new shooting combination with England international George Fisher recovering from concussion, the Steel hardly faltered on attack.
Replacement shooter Grace Namana seized the opportunity to shine and proved a reliable target, unfazed by the defensive reputation of former Silver Ferns Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erena Mikaere.
Contradicting their limited time as a combination, Namana formed an exciting partnership with Tiana Metuarau. The duo earned impressive stats of 92 percent and 97 percent respectively – Metaurau clearly relishing the chance to contribute to the points tally instead of her traditional feeding role, locking up Player of the Match for her efforts.
Exploiting the explosive speed which is undoubtedly a hallmark of her game, captain Shannan Saunders provided the vital connection needed, strongly supported by the defensive prowess of Kate Heffernan and Renee Savai’inaea.
Testament to the menacing defence delivered by Taneisha Fifita and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, the low volume of goals produced by Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett earned her a spot on the bench early in proceedings.
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. Bassett couldn’t get her hands to the ball, stymied by Fifita and 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, 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.
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 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 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.
Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 35/38 (92%)
Tiana Metuarau 29/30 (97%)
Kiana Pelasio 1/3 (33%)
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Caitlin Bassett 21/22 (96%)
Khiarna Williams 18/20 (90%)
Chiara Semple 11/16 (69%)
MVP: Tiana Metuarau (Steel)