The curse of the Central Pulse has struck the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic again.
And this time it was rather more convincing.
The Magic were duly punished 54-44 at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua tonight for what was by far their poorest display of the trans-Tasman league season.
Silly errors this time proved fatal for the Magic, who blew a six-goal first-quarter lead to slide to their second loss of the year - the other one being the Pulse match in Hamilton four weeks ago which went to extra time.
The Magic are still in prime position, with every other team in the competition having lost at least three, but now they have some serious things to iron out.
Crazily, the team looked to have lost any connections they had done so well to build in a short space of time early in the season.
On the other side of the coin, the Pulse were playing for survival, with their campaign desperately in need of a positive injection. They got that in a big way, chiefly through the efforts of goal attack Donna Wilkins, who shot 29 from 34 in a gutsy display.
The Magic had the better of the first quarter, shooting out to a handy advantage, before Pulse captain Katrina Grant halted play with an early 'tactical' timeout.
The hosts narrowed the margin to 15-13 at quarter time, with Paula Griffin coming on cold and shooting the last goal of the stanza after Wilkins was forced off with a cut to the face from Leana de Bruin's fingernail.
More than vaseline was needed to mend the veteran shooter, as she returned for the second quarter sporting several bits of tape around the eye.
The Magic looked like shutting Irene van Dyk (24/29) out and making Wilkins do the lion's share of work, while at the other end of the court Ellen Halpenny (9/10) was on song from range.
But midway through the quarter the visitors became sloppy with the ball.
Throw in two consecutive misses from Jo Harten (30/35) which she would normally shoot in her sleep, and the Pulse went on a storming eight-goal run, turning the match on its head from 23-19 down to leading 27-23.
The Magic pulled one goal back before halftime, and they would have appreciated the break and the chance to get themselves together.
However, they started the third quarter like rabbits in the headlights, with Halpenny missing a shot and then Courtney Tairi throwing an awfully directed pass.
That immediately gave the home side the momentum, and they were able to get the ball into the circle with ease, getting ahead by eight, before de Bruin called time for a calming few words from coach Julie Fitzgerald.
The Pulse then made it nine, before a Casey Kopua intercept got a couple back for the visitors and could have proved the inspiration they needed.
However, it wasn't, as the hosts were able to do what they wanted with the ball and took a 42-34 lead into the final quarter.
Pulse coach Robyn Broughton then had the luxury of introducing Liana Leota, with her arrival mirrored by Bessie Manu coming on to mark her, with Jamie-Lee Price given a rest, while Fitzgerald also opted to hand Malia Paseka (5/8) her first court time this season, on for Halpenny, with Harten moving to goal attack.
The Pulse are now 5-4 and look far more like a playoffs contender. They face the Mainland Tactix in Nelson next Sunday, while the Magic play the Southern Steel in Invercargill next Monday.
- Fairfax Media
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