Steel goal shoot George Fisher turned in another shooting masterclass as the Southern Steel kept their ANZ Premiership finals hopes alive, impressing in her side’s win over the Magic, shooting 50 goals.
The English international again led the way as the Steel made it two wins in five days over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, prevailing 68-57 on Sunday in Invercargill.
Beaten 59-49 by the Central Pulse at their Stadium Southland home on Saturday, the Steel rebounded with a critical win over the bottom-placed Magic.
The victory keeps the fourth-placed Steel in top three finals contention, lifting them to 19 points from 12 games.
They must continue winning from here, but with their next two games against the Stars, who sit second equal with the Pulse on 25 points, the Steel still remain in the finals hunt.
Fisher was influential in the Steel shooting end, converting her first 41 attempts until she finally missed one in the final quarter. The 23-year-old finished with 50 goals from 51 attempts, benefiting from some excellent delivery from goal attack Georgia Heffernan and the midcourters.
Fisher and Heffernan functioned superbly together, missing just three of their 71 attempts as a duo.
Heffernan had one of her finest showings of the season, landing 18 from 20, and looks to have captured the Steel goal attack bib from Saviour Tui.
Trailing by seven goals at halftime (33-26), the Magic roared back into the contest in the third quarter, trimming the Steel lead to 43-40.
Just when it looked like the Magic might push on and dent the Steel’s finals dreams, the home side responded with a critical 6-1 run to end the third quarter.
Silver Ferns' Commonwealth Games hopeful Kate Heffernan, Georgia's identical twin sister, who switched from wing defence back to centre, sparked the Steel, pulling off a key intercept, which they scored from.
Heffernan grabbed four intercepts during the match, showing the strong defensive qualities which have been a hallmark of her play this season.
It was another pleasing effort in the shooting circle from Magic’s Silver Fern combination Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
Mes, who has thrived this season after a frustrating 2021 battling form and injury at the Mystics, continued her push for a Ferns’ Commonwealth Games spot, landing 31 from 36.
Ekenasio, fresh off her best outing of the season against the Steel on Wednesday, had another effective 60-minute showing. She had high volume again, shooting 26 from 29, while also pulling in three rebounds.
Goal keep Kate Burley was effective for the Steel against the Magic's talented shooting end, forcing them into some difficult attempts with her constant pressure.
Best on court
Burley, the Heffernan sisters, and Shannon Saunders all had their moments for the Steel, but it’s tough to go past English international Fisher. She landed 50 of her 51 attempts, which was vital in lifting the Steel to a win. The Steel certainly struck the jackpot when they signed the English star for last season.
The big moment
The Magic were right in the game and threatening to take the lead late in the third quarter, but a 6-1 finish to the term enabled the Steel to build a 49-41 three-quarter time lead. They never came back from that.
6/10: A decent contest overall, but both teams would have been disappointed with their error rate, committing some sloppy mistakes at times. The Magic were guilty of 23 turnovers and the Steel 19, which is too high for this stage of the season.
The big picture
The Steel live to fight another day with this victory, but will still need to probably win out from here to make the top three finals. With two games against the second-placed Stars, the Steel remain a chance. The Magic are proving competitive and pushing teams, but unless they close out their campaign with several wins, they’ll be consigned to last spot for the third straight season.
At Stadium Southland, Invercargill: Steel 68 (George Fisher: 50/51, Georgia Heffernan: 18/20) Magic 57 (Ameliaranne Ekenasio: 26/29, Bailey Mes: 31/36) 1Q: 17-10, HT: 33-26, 3Q: 49-41.