Waikato-BOP Magic far too strong for Tactix
This time they weren't going to be denied.
A few frustrating weeks were put behind the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic after they got back to winning ways in the trans-Tasman league in Mt Maunganui tonight.
After back to back losses, the Magic convincingly beat the bottom-of-the-table Mainland Tactix 74-56 at ASB Arena - a venue they've now won eight from eight at.
The Magic have defeated the Tactix in all of their 14 meetings, and tonight's win was crucial for them.
For starters they had to get their confidence back to where it was earlier in the season. It was also a match they really had to bank to push for a spot in the 1st vs 2nd major semifinal.
As it stands, the Magic are in a three-way tie at the top on 16 points, nestled between the Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts on goal percentage, which got a nice boost with the big win.
The hosts had to work their way into the match before pulling away with the Tactix feeding Mwai Kumwenda (48 from 51) well and making the hosts' path into the shooting circle a fair bit tougher.
Again, the Magic were static with ball in hand, with a lack of drive from the centre pass. Centre Courtney Tairi was continually guilty of not keeping the ball moving or finding herself in good spaces, which slowed her side's momentum through the court.
The home side managed a 16-13 buffer by quarter time, but that didn't mean much considering how they'd crumbled in recent weeks.
However, they capitalised on a couple of early Tactix errors and scored the opening three goals of the second period, with Grace Rasmussen lifting a notch in finding Jo Harten (40/43) under the hoop.
Yet again the Magic made it a frustrating watch for their fans, and coach Julie Fitzgerald, becoming inaccurate with ball-play and lacking patience as their lead was whittled down to three.
This time the Magic were able to respond, however. A pick-up from Jamie-Lee Price - who was handed the starting wing defence role - helped take the lead out to eight as the Magic went to halftime 36-26 ahead.
Gifted six turnovers from the Tactix in the second quarter, the Magic were able to put up 22 attempts, sinking 20 of them, to ease any doubts that may have been creeping into their minds.
Fitzgerald felt confident at the break, deciding to switch Harten to goal attack and put Ellen Halpenny to goal shoot, as she wanted a look at the combination ahead of a potential playoffs campaign. Bessie Manu was also brought on in place of Price as their running battle for a spot on court continued.
Tactix coach Leigh Gibbs handed Hannah Broederlow a second successive stint off the bench after joining the team, on at goal defence for Louise Thayer.
It wasn't just the players changing either with umpire Ann Hay coming on for Danielle Maulder after she tweaked a calf.
The Magic were by far the classier side in the third quarter, with the shooting combination looking really tidy. A running Harten added a new dynamic and she completed a nice shot on the run, while Halpenny (34/36) did well in taking on the bulk of the shooting load, getting the Magic to a 54-41 lead at three-quarter time.
The hosts' lead continued to grow in the final quarter and with six and a half minutes remaining captain Casey Kopua took the opportunity to leave the court and rest what looked like a back niggle, replaced by Jo Trip who got her first court time of the season.
For the Magic the real test comes next. They have a tough trip to Sydney to face the NSW Swifts on Sunday, then host fellow playoff contenders the Queensland Firebirds.