Waikato-BOP Magic out to grasp their flimsy lifeline against the Northern Stars
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have been handed a reprieve in the ANZ Premiership, and now it's up to them to take it.
On Wednesday night, they host the Northern Stars in Tauranga in the final match of the round-robin season, and against all odds, a place in the top three, and the playoffs, is still up for grabs.
Last Monday, the Magic looked to have done their dash, as they lost by one to the Northern Mystics in Auckland, and remained stuck in fourth place on the ladder.
At the time, the Mystics and the Central Pulse, in second and third, were still vulnerable, but the Pulse took care of their business, beating the Stars last Wednesday in Wellington to book a place in Sunday's elimination final.
As for the Mystics, well, they went and lost to the Mainland Tactix.
That was on Sunday, by 11 goals. Their defender Anna Harrison was resting to look after a niggle, and that may have been the difference. Or it may not have been - Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek's tearful reaction suggested the game meant a lot to her side regardless.
Whatever the cause, the Mystics' shock loss means the Magic are back in it, when a week ago it seemed like they were out of it.
As lifelines go, however, it is a flimsy one.
They need to beat the Stars by at least 16 goals, or by 15 goals while conceding less than 48. Do either of those, and they will finish with a superior goal percentage to the Mystics, who currently have a sizeable advantage in that regard, with a figure of 103.17 per cent to the Magic's 101.49 per cent.
If the Magic win 63-48, the two teams would finish with identical percentages, and the Mystics would advance, as they won all three games between the teams this season.
It's always fun when math is involved in deciding who advances and who doesn't, but the Magic can't let the sums worry them too much as they try to seize this opportunity.
All season long, coach Margaret Forsyth has stressed the importance of focusing on process, rather than end product, and while they have faltered in the back half of their campaign, losing six of their last seven games following a five-win, two-loss start, they must return to the same approach once more.
They have 60 minutes to play on Wednesday, and before they start thinking about winning by 15 or winning by 16, they have to try to play good netball. If they can get on a roll, the required margin might come; but if they don't, it certainly won't.
And it shouldn't be forgotten that the last time the Magic played the Stars, they lost, in an extremely physical encounter that seemed to stymie them at a point in their season where they would have been looking to rally and push for the playoffs.
That loss was their third in a row at that point, and though they won their next game, against the Tactix, they then went and lost their next three.
Somehow, they still have a shot at making the elimination final.
And while it may be a slim one, that's better than having none at all.
Wednesday's game is at ASB BayPark Arena and is set to start at 7.40pm.