The First Windows Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic have paid a fitting final tribute to their old home court, Mystery Creek, in overwhelming the Melbourne Vixens, 53-41, in their last ANZ Championship match at the Hamilton stadium. It was a hugely satisfying last hurrah at Mystery Creek before the Waikato Bay of Plenty side move to a new home base at Claudelands. But more critically, it was a sign that the Magic have found their consistency and rhythm after six rounds.
Rebounding from their previous week's upset loss to the Mystics, the Magic came out firing and maintained that intensity throughout the match, leaving the Vixens to try and play catch-up netball. Magic captain Laura Langman was thrilled that kick in the pants had inspired more urgency on every ball against the former ANZ champions.
The Vixens started tough on defence - wing defence Renae Hallinan setting the scene by keeping a tight rein on wing attack Jess Tuki, who has made a good fist of her debut at wing attack for the Magic this season.
Their circle defence pairing of Geva Mentor and Bianca Chatfield put Irene van Dyk on her tip-toes to gather in ball, while the not-so-towering goal attack Julianna Naoupu adeptly answered the call to shoot from the outer reaches of the circle.
At the opposite end, fledgling Magic goal keep Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick poured the pressure on her experienced opponent, Kate Beveridge, allowing Casey Williams to concentrate on a spirited rematch with Vixens goal attack Sharelle McMahon.
As the quarter progressed, the Magic edged out to a six-goal advantage, and led 16-11 at the first break.
Vixens coach Julie Hoornweg made wholesale changes for the second quarter, benching Beveridge in favour of McMahon at goal shoot, and Tegan Caldwell appearing at goal attack. Julie Corletto, back from injury, also entered the game at wing defence for the Vixens, and the gap closed to three.
But once the Magic settled in, their trademark smooth flow through court driven by centre Laura Langman came into play, and with Williams hunting out of the circle, they stretched back out to six goals with ease.
The Vixens were determined to prove they were no easy team to shake, and yo-yoed back to within three just before halftime; McMahon putting on a perfect shooting performance with 15 from 15.
Leading 29-25, the Magic on-court seven remained the same heading into the third quarter, while Hoornweg chose to rejig her line-up yet again this time taking Mentor off, and shunting Chatfield back to goal keep to challenge van Dyk.
The tried and true combination of Chatfield and Corletto at the back couldn't stop the Magic scoring four consecutive goals straight into the spell, but they steadily fell into rhythm, helping a Vixens comeback of four in a row.
An exemplary intercept by Langman swung the momentum back the Magics way, taking a 39-32 lead into the final quarter.
Even with Mentor returning to the court, the Magic's dominance swelled, with Tone-Fitzpatrick playing her heart out. Vixens captain Sharelle McMahon described her teams demise in the final spell as really disappointing.
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photos Janos Schmidt