Sponsored content by
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have won a scintillating extra time game against the Queensland Firebirds on the Gold Coast this afternoon.
Effectively in sudden death mode to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Magic produced a stunning 65-62 win against the second placed side, having been down by four in the early stages of extra time.
Irene van Dyk (30/31) sunk some crucial shots when it mattered, while goal attack Ellen Halpenny (35/45) again took on the dominant shooting role.
While she was shaky at times, she was equally brilliant at other stages.
Big Jamaican goal shoot Romelda Aiken (42/47) was predictably dangerous, while classy goal attack Natalie Medhurst (20/25) had her moments.
After Magic coach Noeline Taurua had announced during the week that she would be standing down at the end of the season, the Magic had no trouble in spurring themselves on for a chance of defending their title.
Taurua gave Jodi Tod-Elliott her first start of the season, plumping for her at wing defence ahead of Elias Shadrock.
Both teams were loose with the ball early, with just three goals in the first three and a half minutes of the game.
The Magic were the team to settle first, with defenders Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin picking up some crucial ball and helping their side put together seven goals on the trot to lead 8-2.
At that point the Firebirds called a timeout and brought on Chelsea Pitman at wing attack in place of Nicola Gray.
The Magic kept their momentum going though and went to quarter time with a handy 13-8 lead.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke made more tweaks, introducing Demelza McCloud (goal defence) and Gabrielle Simpson (wing defence) as she looked to heap more pressure on the Magic's front line.
Halpenny took on the bulk of the shooting with van Dyk tightly marked by an energetic Laura Geitz.
But Halpenny she was patchy (6/9) and the visitors weren't able to ram home their advantage.
Fortunately for her, her opposite, Medhurst was equally scratchy in sinking just 3/6 in the quarter, as both sides gave away a fair amount of possession.
The Firebirds closed the gap but the Magic kept their heads level and didn't panic.
With 30 seconds to play before halftime, the defending champions then received a favourable call, with a ball seemingly coming off Leana de Bruin, but being ruled to have come off Aiken.
The Magic utilised that possession, scoring to go to the long break ahead 24-19.
It was all the Firebirds to start the third period, with the Magic coughing up three turnovers, seven penalties and two missed shots from Halpenny in the first two and a half minutes.
The hosts levelled at 24-24 then took the lead at 26-25, when the Magic called time to sort themselves out.
The Firebirds kept finding Aiken and she kept finding the net, as did Medhurst, with a 34-30 lead soon transpiring.
A late turnover helped the Magic narrow the deficit and they went to three quarter time down 37-35 after losing the quarter 18-11.
Things looked ominous for the Magic when Halpenny opened the quarter with a mistake, but quick enough they hit the lead 38-37.
A Medhurst miss was pounced on by the Magic and they got ahead by three after a pair of long-range Halpenny shots.
Soon later, with the Firebirds down by two, a timeout was ordered and Jencke switched Geitz and McCloud in the defensive spots, and her side soon levelled things up.
But the Magic fought to a 48-45 advantage, before a short pass led to the Firebirds tying back up at 49-49.
Halpenny sunk well for 50-49, then Aiken levelled at 50-50, before Halpenny scored a massive goal under pressure for 51-50 with a handful of seconds left.
A long ball was launched to Aiken and it was only a contact from Kopua which allowed Aiken to take the match to extra time.
The Firebirds immediately took control of the first extra period, scoring four unanswered goals.
Instead of shooting, Medhurst threw a ball away with a minute and a half left in the first extra period and van Dyk sunk twice, before de Bruin contacted Aiken on the halftime whistle, as the Firebirds went to the break up 59-57.
Firebirds broke at 60-59 up and van Dyk was able to tie things up then give her side the lead.
With two and a half minutes left, Kopua came up with a crucial intercept in front of Aiken and Halpenny sunk to put them up 64-62.
Off their pass van Dyk was penalised for elbowing Geitz and the Firebirds went up court before being being dealt a harsh call, with a ball going out of court off Tod-Elliott but being ruled to have come off Pitman.
With less than a minute remaining the game was safe for the Magic.
Magic 65 (13-11-11-16-14) beat Firebirds 62 (8-11-18-14-11)
- (Live Matches)