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ANZ Netball Championships-Magic defeat Tactix in Extra Time
In a hugely emotional clash, a dauntless Mercury Energy Tactix side forced the First Windows Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to extra time in Rotorua, before finally being ousted 63-56.
It was a poignant first game for the Tactix since the February 22 Christchurch earthquake – the day after their last and only game of the season until now. But they showed no signs of being deprived of court time, producing a gritty performance to lock the scores at 47-all at the end of the regulation four quarters.
Yet, once again, the practiced Magic side dominated the 14 minutes of extra time to remain unbeaten so far this year, and uphold their incredible home-game record. Most notable was an outstanding performance by young goal attack Julianna Naoupu, out-pointing her goal shoot, Irene van Dyk, with 37 from 41 shots.
The Tactix, who had been together in a team debrief when the quake struck, needed little motivation to come out firing in their long-awaited return.
Goal for goal until midway through the first quarter, it was the Magic who made the first leap ahead, snatching a three-goal advantage after some incisive work by the defensive triumvirate of Peta Scholz, Jodi Tod and Casey Williams.
But the gap closed again, thanks largely to steals by Charlotte Kight, working like a trojan at wing defence, and her Tactix captain Maree Bowden, making a striking return from injury. With a more aggressive attack, the Tactix stole a march on the homeside to lead 15-13 at the first break.
The Cantabs extended the lead to four when they returned to court; shooters Ellen Halpenny and Donna Wilkins, leading by example, continuing to develop their new partnership in goal.
But as the quarter progressed, the Magic began to find their trademark composure with sharper lines of feeding to van Dyk, who had been stifled by Tactix keeper Kasey Evering for much of the half. At the halftime whistle, van Dyk and Naoupu had missed only one goal each, and the scores were locked 26-26.
To inject more attack into the Magic defence in the third spell, Williams zipped out to goal defence, with Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick entering the game at goal keep.
In a counter move, Silver Fern shooter Anna Thompson was called on to bring more accuracy to the Tactix shooting circle, but the Magic spoiled their plans and established a five-goal lead.
Laura Langman, who had played an integral role in the Magic’s comeback, threw a scare into the side when she tweaked an ankle in the last minutes of the spell but returned to play out the quarter, which Magic ended with a 40-38 lead.
The Tactix were unrelenting in their efforts to stay in the game, persevering in their struggles to find clear avenues through the midcourt. With five minutes remaining, the plucky Cantabrians scored three in a row to pull ahead by one.
A disallowed goal for the Tactix allowed the Magic to tie the scores up again, and in a breathless final few minutes, neither team could break away – forcing the game into extra time.
Such was the resolve of the Tactix, when Bowden went down in a painful heap after being sandwiched between two Magic defenders, she refused to leave the match.
The Magic slipped out to 55-53 after the first extra period, and a series of stepping mistakes by the Tactix allowed the experienced home side to nudge their score further out of reach.
21. August 57
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS