24 May 2010

The Southern Steel rewarded their passionate Invercargill fans with an upset triumph over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, 52-47, tonight. 


With the Steel shooters producing one of their most complete performances of the season, and the Magic coming to terms with a new defensive line-up, it was a game of grit, sweat and determination that was tighter than the five-goal final margin would indicate.


The Steel have only beaten the Magic on one other occasion in ANZ Championship history – back in 2008 – and coming into tonight’s clash, had the benefit of being refreshed from a bye.


Captain Megan Dehn, who starred at goal attack with 90 percent shooting accuracy, said her side were well aware they needed to win four out of their five remaining games to have a chance of making the semifinals.


"We’ve been building for that game for a while and we knew we had it in us," she said.


Going into the game, Magic coach Noeline Taurua faced a positional poser over the wing defence spot left vacant by the injured Peta Scholz, and opted for Jodi Tod to fill the gap.


Little separated the two sides for most of the first quarter, scoring tit for tat until the Steel broke away with three minutes left on the clock. A string of unlikely errors by the Magic through court, under monumental pressure applied by Steel defenders Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Leana de Bruin, allowed the home side to score five in a row.  Steel goal shoot Daneka Wipiiti was strong on the ball and deadly accurate with her shot in what was shaping up to be one of her best performances of the season. 


Leading15-11 at the end of the first quarter, Steel quickly pushed the gap out to six goals and looked to ratchet up the pressure a further notch.


Magic goal attack Jodi Brown was forced to work overtime to break free of her marker, and support Irene van Dyk.  When the Magic’s vision became clearer, and they were allowed the slightest room to move, their lines were poetic.


Tod appeared to get a better handle on the wing defence role as the quarter went on, and centre Laura Langman had a quick hand in most of the action - and suddenly the deficit had dissolved;

the Magic taking the lead for the first time by one.


The Steel’s luck could have taken a turn for the worse, when wing defence Erica Burgess was forced off-court with a leg injury.  But with Hayley Saunders coming on for her debut ANZ Championship appearance, and the fervent crowd getting right behind their team, the Steel stole the lead back just before halftime, scoring five in succession, to be up 29-25 at the break.


Both Wipiiti and Megan Dehn carried on their 90 percent shooting accuracy through the third quarter, helped immeasurably by the fine feeding of Liana Barrett-Chase.


The Magic surged again towards the end of the spell, closing up to 41-39, still in the Steel’s favour, going into the final 15 minutes.


The Steel’s defence went into overdrive, leaving the Magic very few gaps to penetrate, with de Bruin in exceptional form protecting the goalpost, then driving the ball back up to the other end of the court.


On the wrong end of a 46-43 scoreline, Taurua changed her defensive line up, bringing long-legged shooter Jess Tuki into goal keep to partner goal defence Casey Williams.  But too often, the ball bounced the wrong way for the Magic in the last minutes, and the Steel maintained the heat to hold out for a crucial win on their road to the top four.  

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