Steel survive to remain in finals contention

THEY did not always have it their own way, but the Southern Steel remain alive in the ANZ Premiership finals hunt, after shaking off a determined Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic by 11 goals at ILT Stadium. The Steel raced out to a seven-goal quarter time lead, then had to fend off the best the Magic had to offer throughout the middle stages of the game – which included drawing to within three goals – to run out 68-57 victors at ILT Stadium.

SOUTHERN STEEL 17 | 16 | 16 | 19 (68)
WBOP MAGIC 10 | 16 | 15 | 16 (57)

Needing a win to remain in the finals hunt and put another nail in the Magic’s wooden spoon coffin, the Steel started off on the right note, with George Fisher and Georgia Heffernan combining well to open up a three-goal lead against the Silver Ferns duo of Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Bailey Mes. After the latter drew within two in the final few minutes, it looked like it was going to be an even first term, but then five consecutive goals to the Steel at the end – four to Fisher – lead the home side to have a seven-goal buffer at the first change. Fisher scored 12 goals at 100 per cent efficiency, as Shannon Saunders fired off 10 goal assists to be the standout player on court, getting the better of her opponent Claire Kersten.

A second quarter change to try and stem Saunders saw Kersen heading to centre and Samantha Winders back into wing defence, and it certainly put more pressure on the Steel attacking end. Saunders still had the eight goal assists, but ran at just over 50 per cent efficiency from her feeds, as Winders kept tight, whilst Kersten scored eight goal assists herself. Both Ekenasio and Mes managed the eight goals each, as Fisher’s golden spree continued with 13 goals at 100 per cent in the term. Kate Heffernan was also completely nullifying the dangerous Georgie Edgecombe who only had seven goal assists to half-time.

The Magic, trying to mix up things, switched Mes and Ekenasio’s bibs, then brought on Hannah Ridling for Georgia Tong midway through the quarter. The Steel also kept thins fresh, with Kate Heffernan moved into centre, and Ivani Christie coming on as Ali Wilshier had a rest. Sarahpheinna Woulf would relieve both Kate Burley and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit without too much effect on the result, while Kiana Pelasio came on for Georgia Heffernan late in the term. On the scoreboard, after the Magic drew within three goals as late as the 11th minute of the term, the Steel – lead by Fisher – picked up the bid again to pile on six of the last seven goals and extend the lead out to eight goals at the final break.

Edgecombe coming off for Simmon Wilbore was the only chance for the Magic in the fourth term, as Georgia Heffernan rejoined the seven to start the final term, and Selby-Rickit returned to the court for the final few minutes of the match. The Steel had done enough, as they won the last quarter by three goals, 19-16. Fisher continued her wonderful match with another 13 goals, whilst Kate Heffernan had six goal assists and an intercept in centre, with her sister Georgia also managing six goal assists, whilst scoring six goals from seven attempts. Wilbore made the most of her time on court with six goal assists while Mes (nine goals from 10 attempts) and Ekenasio (seven from eight) tried hard all game.

Kate Heffernan would finish with the Most Valuable Player (MVP) off the back of her nine goal assists, five gains, four intercepts and six deflections in an all-round midcourt game. Fisher was ridiculous with 50 goals from 51 attempts, whilst Georgia Heffernan helped herself to 18 goals from 20 attempts, as well as 18 goal assists. Saunders (28 goal assists) and Burley (seven gains, six deflections, two rebounds and one intercept ) were also among the Steel’s best. For the Magic, Tong (four gains, three intercepts and five deflections) was productive in 39 minutes, whilst Kersten (17 goal assists) and the pairing of Mes (31 goals from 36 attempts) and Ekenasio (26 from 29) also worked hard.

Southern Steel take on Northern Stars in a must-win clash on Sunday, May 29, the same day the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic face off against Mainland Tactix.

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