Magic win secures home semifinal
Tue, 03 Jul 2012 5:34a.m.
Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic secured their ninth consecutive trans-Tasman netball league win and a home semifinal with a perfectly paced 53-43 win over Queensland Firebirds in Hamilton on Monday.
The win was deceptively flattering, as only a 13-7 final-quarter blitz put the match beyond doubt.
It means the Magic will host Adelaide Thunderbirds next Monday despite looking down and out after losing their first four games of the season.
The last time the two teams met was in last year's major semi-final, where the Firebirds dominated for a 50-39 win in their undefeated run to the title.
The Magic were a different proposition at Claudelands Arena, moving the ball with purpose and pace right from the first whistle.
Neither side managed to control the opening 15 minutes, the Magic edging out to a narrow 14-13 lead in quarter characterised by smothering defence and plenty of turnovers from both teams.
Laura Langman and Khao Watts got through a power of work, both on defence and attack, with Langman's work rate especially impressive in driving the Magic midcourt.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke was forced into an early change, bringing on the 1.90m Amy Steel at wing defence for Shannon Eagland in an effort to put more pressure on Watts.
The ebb and flow continued in the second spell, veteran Silver Ferns shooter Irene van Dyk owning the baseline and combining well with Julianna Naoupu to fractionally extend the lead to 27-24 at halftime.
The Firebirds fought back strongly in the third quarter, slowing the Magic drive in the attacking third and reclaiming the lead for the first time since early in the match.
But the Magic responded with a lift in intensity, finding more rhythm and timing on attack and sinking the last three goals to lead 40-36 with 15 minutes remaining.
Skipper Lauren Nourse took the court at centre for Elissa Macleod for the final quarter, but the Magic found another gear and powered away in the closing minutes for the win.
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