Sloppy attack costs Waikato-BOP Magic in loss
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have been outclassed by the NSW Swifts in their trans-Tasman league clash in Sydney this evening.
Despite a fine defensive effort from captain Casey Kopua, some sloppy attack again cost the Magic, as they went down - at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
Swifts took the game out with 55 goals, while Magic scored 43.
With the top four sewn up after the Central Pulse exited the running yesterday, the playoff contenders were left jostling for position.
With one round to play the Swifts are equal on 18 points with the Melbourne Vixens, though the latter is on track to claim top spot, with a far superior goal percentage.
The Magic and Queensland Firebirds are both on 16 (the Firebirds ahead on percentage) and meet in Hamilton in the last round.
The Swifts dealt a psychological blow ahead of any potential playoffs encounter with the Magic, as their midcourt of Sarah Wall, Kimberlee Green and Abbey McCulloch ran proceedings well.
It was Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald's first time coming up against her old Swifts side, which she was at the helm of for 15 years until the end of the 2011 season, but it wasn't the homecoming she was after.
From the first centre pass of the game wing defence Jamie-Lee Price fell over in a collision and the Magic immediately surrendered possession, and two goals.
But they did a fine job, with some slick handling, to get it back to 6-6, before some sloppy errors on attack had them 10-6 down. With Kopua taking a heavy fall, a timeout was called and the Magic were given a spray from Fitzgerald.
They returned more clinical and, helped by a Kopua block on Caitlin Thwaites in the dying seconds, went to quartertime trailing just 13-12.
Mirroring the first quarter, the Magic then made a meal out of the opening possession of the second stanza, and also turned over their next use of the ball, to fall behind 17-12, and at 18-13 another timeout gave Fitzgerald the chance to grill them once more.
With the Swifts shooters again missing two shots apiece in the second quarter, the Magic kept themselves in the contest, even though their movements on attack were once again being pretty static, with the home team's drive through court far more impressive.
But just as the Magic looked to reduce the margin to two inside the final minute of the half, a woefully stray Courtney Tairi pass gifted the Swifts the ball, and they waltzed to halftime with their heads high, up 26-21.
That was despite the hosts behind on shooting percentage (84-76), rebounds (6-1) and intercepts (2-1), and also having given away one more penalty.
For the second week running Fitzgerald switched Jo Harten (22/28) and Halpenny around at halftime to give the Swifts something different to think about.
Early in the third period Price required treatment to her right ankle, and soon after her team was down 31-22.
Price lasted a few more minutes but was then replaced by Bessie Manu, while Halpenny (12/15) was also taken off, with Malia Paseka injected for just the second time this season.
She missed her first shot and with the Magic throwing more ball away the Swifts took the lead out to 11 and went into the final 15 minutes ahead 42-31.
The Magic struggled to make any inroads into the deficit in the final term, with Paseka (9/13) shaky under the hoop.
Kopua finished with seven rebounds, two intercepts and two deflections, but Thwaites (25/31) and Susan Pratley (30/38) had the final say.
AT A GLANCE
Swifts 55 (13-13-16-13)
Magic 43 (12-9-10-12)