Waikato Bay’s Magic finish to ANZ Premiership season

THOUGH it might not have been a memorable season for the last placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, there was plenty to take away from a strong finish, as the Magic easily took case of fourth placed Southern Steel by 11 goals. The Magic won the first three quarters to set up the win, then gave court time to a number of players late as they would finish off the year in style, getting up 54-43 at Globox Arena.

WBOP MAGIC 13 | 13 | 15 | 13 (54)
SOUTHERN STEEL 8 | 12 | 10 | 13 (43)

The Magic, lead by Silver Ferns duo Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio proved too hot to handle in the first term, as they scored 13 goals from 17 chances. Mes managed nine out of 12, while even picking up an intercept. On the other side, George Fisher (seven goals from eight attempts) did the heavy lifting as her team could only manage the eight goals, well contained by defensive duo Leana de Bruin and Erena Mikaere. Even a chance in goal attacks from Saviour Tui to Georgia Heffernan did not really help the Steel as they trailed by five goals at the first break.

The second term was far closer with the sides going goal for goal for the most part, and no more than two consecutive goals scored for either side, which meant the Magic lead only increased by one – to six – by the main break. Mes was on-song again with nine goals from 10 attempts, while Simmon Wilbore – who replaced Georgie Edgecombe in wing attack midway through the first term – picked up five goal assists. Shannon Saunders got a bit more on top of Samantha Winders in the quarter with five goal assists, while Kate Burley had two deflections, an intercept and a gain to limit Ekenasio to four goals from five attempts for the second successive quarter.

A switch of bibs for Mes and Ekenasio reinvigorated the Magic, with the Steel unable to contain the pairing who scored 15 goals from 19 attempts compared to Fisher and the rotating goal attack bib with 10 from 12. Claire Kersten was dominant in centre with eight goal assists, while de Bruin continued her great form to make both Tui and Heffernan a non factor in goal attack, and the Magic went up by 11 at the final change.

With the game done and dusted, the Magic rotated players in the final term, bringing on the likes of Georgia Tong, Oceane Maihi, Ivana Rowland and even Eseta Autagavaia in the final 90 seconds, to give everyone a taste of court action in the last match of the season. Fisher also came to the bench for heh final term, and both teams played out a 13-goal apiece draw for the quarter, which enabled the Magic to maintain their 11-goal lead and win, 54-43.

Mes won the Most Valuable Player (MVP), scoring 28 goals from 33 attempts, as well as six goal assists from seven feeds and one intercept. Ekenasio (25 goals from 30 attempts and six goal assists) was also lively in the shooting circle. Wilbore (15 goal assists) and de Bruin were among the best as well. For the Steel, Fisher finished the season with 24 goals from 26 attempts and two goal assists, while Tui nailed 13 goals at 100 per cent. Saunders and Heffernan (six from nine) helped themselves to 13 goal assists, while Burley tried hard in defence.

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