Pulsating finish sees Dunn the hero

A JAW-DROPPING finish to the Round 4 ANZ Premiership clash between Central Pulse and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic saw the former escape with a one-goal win thanks to a frantic intercept and end-to-end play to win the match. The last 30 seconds of play was as tense as any match in the season, with the Magic able to draw level and have the centre pass, only for a costly turnover handing the ball back to Pulse who darted down the other end of the court to post the win.

The match had been neck and neck throughout with the Pulse taking a two-goal lead in the opening term, and that being cut down to just one goal at the main break. The gap had never been more than five at any stage, with the Magic continually keeping up with the Pulse. They actually dominated in the second term early as the Silver Ferns pairing of Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes piled on the first five goals of the term to see the Magic out to a three-goal lead 17-14. Aliyah Dunn and Tiana Metuarau were able to get back on top to score five consecutive goals themseleves to lead by two again, only for the Magic to cut it to one with the late Mes reply.

Ekenasio (13 goals from 14 attempts) and Mes (12 from 15) were looking strong, but Dunn was one fire with 20 from 21 in a half. Georgie Edgecombe (13 goal assists) was stepping up in wing attack for the home side, whilst Metuarau had a huge first quarter with nine goal assists, then took over some of the scoring load in the second term to score four from five for six from seven for the half. Kelly Jury was also a steady hand in defence for the Pulse against her Silver Ferns teammates.

The first substitutions did not occur until midway through the third term with Paris Lokotui and Erikana Pedersen both rested at times, rotating with Ainsleyana Puleiata on three different occasions to find the right combination. After the Magic lead by as much as four goals midway through the term – and one in the last minute of the quarter – Dunn scored the final two goals to ensure her side held the one-goal advantage into the last quarter. Despite the game being on the line, the Magic ensured Ekenasio had her rest in the final term, bringing on Ivana Rowland and moving Mes into goal attack.

The Pulse started off on fire with the first three goals of the term to open up a four-goal lead. That soon evaporated and the Magic hit back, but could not draw level. That was until the frantic final minute. Rowland was having a shot with 21 seconds on the clock, but it bounced off the ring and went out of play, or so it seemed. A lunging Mes somehow grabbed the ball and flung it behind her head, timing it perfectly to go in and level the scores with 18 seconds on the clock.

The Magic also had the centre pass, and with just four seconds remaining, it looked like Samantha Winders was finding a path into the circle, but Kristiana Manu’a read the pass with perfection. She heaved the ball to Whitney Souness, she found Metuarau who in the final second went into Dunn who as infringed and had the chance after the whistle from a long-range position. She made it look easy after the whistle, ensuring the Pulse took home the remarkable 51-50 victory.

Jury won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for her four intercepts and two rebounds against Ekenasio and Rowland. Dunn (37 goals from 40 assists and three rebounds) starred from goal shooter, with Metuarau (14 from 17 and 16 goal assists) also outstanding. Souness (15 goal assists) and Pedersen (13) fed the ball well, whilst Manu’a came up big with that final moment intercept her sole one for the match.

Mes (24 goals from 28 attempts and nine goal assists) and Ekenasio (18 from 21 and four goal assists) spent quality time in the circle, whilst Edgecombe had 20 goal assists and an intercept. Winders and Oceane Maihi (two intercepts) were both hard working in defence.

Waikato Bay of plenty Magic host Southern Steel on Saturday, whilst Central Pulse have a longer break until Monday, April 11 when they also host the Steel.

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