In a tough grind, the Trident Homes Tactix produced a strong finish to out-run Splice Construction Magic 51-48 while securing a much-needed Mother’s Day win in Auckland on Sunday.
In the tightest of contests where the result remained in doubt until the final few minutes, the Magic held the slimmest of leads at each quarter break before the Tactix showed the better composure to deliver the hammer blow at the end.
Two late blemishes cost the Magic dearly but after a season upended by injury and illness, there were positive signs to emerge from their camp, including the return of Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
In the clash between the teams anchoring the foot, and with both coming off losses just 24 hours earlier in a weekend of double-headers at Pulman Arena, there was plenty at stake.
Backing up after a quick turnaround, both sides fronted with their starting sevens of the previous day and got away to enterprising starts.
The first stanza was largely even and tightly contested. The memories of a tough day at the office the day before, evaporated for Magic goal attack Bailey Mes, who had a fine opening through her speed, agility and perfect eight from eight goals.
It was a similar story for tall Tactix goal shoot Ellie Bird, who frequently found herself in clear space under the hoop on the back of good feeds from Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Kimiora Poi.
The Magic could not take full advantage of two mini-breaks but did enough to have their noses in front 16-15 at the first break.
Consolidating on their positive start, the Magic showed further encouraging signs on the resumption but could not shake a dogged and persistent Tactix.
Showcasing her strong shooter-to-shooter off-loads, Selby-Rickit helped the Tactix slip into the lead, but it was short-lived.
An energetic Magic quickly rallied, a five-goal unanswered scoring spree where shooters Mes and the ever-impressive Ivana Rowland combined expertly with their movement and finishing under the hoop.
Magic captain Sam Winders was in the thick of action with her strong presence on both defence and attack while defender Oceane Maihi was always a threat.
A late rally had the Tactix threatening and well in the contest, the Magic holding them at arm’s length to take a 28-26 lead into the main break.
With the game perfectly poised, and Ekenasio entering at goal attack for the Magic in the second half, it was the Tactix who made the best possible start to the third stanza.
Scoring the first four goals, the red-and-blacks slipped into a two-goal lead, both teams producing effective and seamless through-court attacking play as long spells of goal-for-goal exchanges followed.
With little on offer through defensive gains, there was plenty of slick attacking play with Poi and Samon Nathan showing their vision with great feeds into the Tactix circle.
Kate Lloyd, on at goalkeeper for the Tactix, helped tighten their defensive resolve with some nice touches while the shorter Georgia Tong did an equally effective job in the same position for the Magic at the other end as the arm-wrestle continued.
Twice the Magic levelled up before inching into a tenuous one-goal lead, the teams going toe-to-toe in the goal-scoring stakes without missing beat.
A buzzer time shot from Mes helped the Magic take a 40-39 lead at the last turn with the game in the balance and the promise of an exciting run to the line.
Official Result and Stats:
Splice Construction Magic: 48
Trident Homes Tactix: 51
Champion Data Match Centre
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Bailey Mes 26/31 (84%)
Ivana Rowland 13/16 (81%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 9/11 (82%)
Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Ellie Bird 28/34 (82%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 21/26 (81%)
Hannah Glen 2/4 (50%)
MVP: Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Tactix)