Magic prevail in semifinal against NSW Swifts

RIGHT CHOICE: Jo Harten in action for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
RIGHT CHOICE: Jo Harten in action for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic have pulled off a sensational comeback to win their trans-Tasman league minor semifinal against the NSW Swifts in Sydney tonight.

In a thrilling encounter at Allphones Arena, the Magic prevailed 50-49 with Jo Harten netting a penalty shot with time up.

They will play the loser of tomorrow night's major semifinal between the Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds.

The Magic were behind for nearly the whole contest, including being down by seven in the second quarter.

Swifts wing attack Sarah Wall was deemed fit to play after overcoming a calf injury, but clearly wasn't 100 per cent, and the Magic's Samantha Sinclair was given a second run at wing defence.

The teams went goal for goal through the early stages in a static beginning to the contest, then the Magic showed off some slick ball movement to take the lead 6-5 and later got themselves out to a two-goal buffer.

But a 12-10 advantage soon turned pear-shaped as the Swifts fought back to level, then punished Magic errors further in taking a 14-12 lead to quartertime.

As they have been guilty of throughout the season, just when the Magic needed a settling play, they didn't get it, as Courtney Tairi threw away the opening possession of the second quarter, allowing the Swifts to make it six goals on the trot and go to 16-12.

Soon enough that lead became five and a timeout saw Julie Fitzgerald address her players and repeatedly remind them their passes needed to be "short and quick".

But immediately back on court Grace Rasmussen dished up loopy and long and the Swifts got out to 22-15 and looked like powering away, with Sharni Layton reeling in three intercepts in the second period.

However, a foot-out-of-the-centre-circle-penalty and a turnover down the other end had the home side let the Magic back in it at 22-19.

A few lucky bounces of the ball and soon after they were only down 24-23, before the hosts managed to get to halftime up 28-24, with the Magic not helping themselves in the closing stages as Leana de Bruin swatted a ball away with the seconds ticking then Tairi was pinged for held ball from the centre pass.

Three successive goals early in the third spell had the Magic pile the pressure back on the hosts, then Casey Kopua came up with possession and a miraculous no-look over-the-head throw from Harten (28/35) had them back to within one again.

But once more the Swifts were able to respond, with a Sonia Mkoloma intercept helping them to 34-29.

Late in the quarter Wall called time for treatment to her calf and the Magic huddle was full of belief. Susan Pratley (25/29) missed with 20 seconds left and Harten wasn't able to nail either of her two long-range speculators, so the Magic went into the final 15 behind 40-38.

They scored the opening goal of the final stanza and when Caitlin Thwaites (24/27) over-cooked a shot the visitors hit the front 41-40 - the first time they led since late in the first quarter.

Another Layton spark got the Swifts ahead by two, then the Magic tied it up again, but Swifts captain Kim Green was inspirational in stealing ball under pressure.

However the Swifts turned the ball over and Ellen Halpenny (22/26) gave the Magic a 48-47 lead with one and a half minutes to play, before Thwaites responded.

Halpenny scored again with 40 seconds left, then Thwaites netted with 15 on the clock. The Magic got the ball into Harten, who missed a shot, but got the rebound and had a straightforward penalty shot with time up to break the Swifts' hearts.


Magic 50 (12-12-14-12)

Swifts 49 (14-14-12-9)