Magic thrive under pressure to take win
Has there ever been a team that thrives on so much pressure?
Sudden death matches and the Waikato- Bay of Plenty Magic never really used to be a good a mix, but this team have come of age.
When the chips are down, the Magic produce their best.
Everyone saw that year when they went sudden death mode claimed the title. Now they are at it again. Precariously placed, with another loss potentially season ending, the Magic faced no easy task in toppling the second- placed Queensland Firebirds on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Winning in Australia has always been a battle for any New Zealand side, with the Magic having coughed up their previous two fixtures over the ditch this year.
But at the weekend, on the back of the announcement from coach Noeline Taurua that she’s standing down at the end of the season, the defending champions produced a super fightback to claim a thrilling 65-62 win in extra time.
‘‘ Because it swung so much, we knew that we had to go right to the end,’’ Taurua said. ‘‘ Because of that I’m ecstatic, I’m very proud.’’ last into and
It’s an irony that the Magic save their best for when they’re most desperate, but the predicament is proving a helping hand.
‘‘I think for us it makes it easier when we have nowhere else to go apart from doing the job that we need to,’’ Taurua said.
‘‘It helps us in regards to the urgency and it ends up coming back to what the team means for us.’’
For the first time this season Taurua stuck with the same seven throughout the game, which included Jodi Tod-Elliott’s first start of the year, at wing defence.
The coach was on the cusp of changes heading into the last quarter but believed consolidation was needed.
Romelda Aiken ( 42/ 47) was predictably dangerous for the Firebirds, while classy goal attack Natalie Medhurst (20/25) had her moments.
For the Magic Irene van Dyk ( 30/ 31) sunk some crucial shots when it mattered, while Ellen Halpenny ( 35/ 45) again took on the dominant role, as Laura Langman produced some nice ball into the circle.
While she was shaky at times, Halpenny was equally brilliant at other stages.
The Magic took early control, as Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin stamped their mark on proceedings at the back and helped the visitors to a 24-19 halftime lead.
The Magic have been guilty of a poor period here or there, and the third stanza yesterday was it.
Penalties, missed shots and and turnovers handed the Firebirds the initiative and they leaped out to a 34-30 lead, taking the quarter 18-11 to go to three quarter time up 37-35.
But the Magic quickly got themselves back in front, before a nail biting finale.
Halpenny scored a massive goal for 51- 50 with a handful of seconds left, then a long ball was launched to Aiken and it was only a contact from Kopua which allowed Aiken to take things to extra time.
With the Firebirds scoring the first four goals in extra time, the Magic looked gone, but they stayed in the contest.
A breaking penalty by the hosts and a late Kopua intercept proved crucial, then the Firebirds were dealt a harsh call, with a ball going out off Tod-Elliott but being ruled to have come off Chelsea Pitman. With less than a minute remaining the game was safe.
‘‘We take a lot of heart out of this game, but it’s not the end of it, it’s just one game and we know we’ve got four more to go if we want to make the top four,’’ Taurua said.