In a tenacious performance that evolved with the game, the MG Mystics avenged their Round 1 loss to Splice Construction Magic, with a 56-44 victory in Auckland.
Although the score blew out in the second half of the match, the Mystics inspired by the leadership and defence of Sulu Fitzpatrick, the Magic had stints of play that impressed after two weeks away from the court.
The Magic have had the roughest end of the stick this Covid-interrupted season, with this only their sixth game. They were still without their strongest line-up, with Ameliaranne Ekenasio missing this week.
It was a fast and furious start to the match, with both teams neck-and-neck, and no one area of the court dominating – a scenario which continued right up until halftime.
Without the experienced head and hands of Ekenasio, her place in the shooting circle filled by Ivana Rowland at goal shoot. Her shooting partner, Bailey Mes, was back for her first appearance since Round 4, and she was in strong form with both feeding, rebounding and shooting from distance for the first spell.
The Mystics started without feeding maestro Peta Toeava, who was on the bench after being unwell last week.Claire O’Brien was more than capable to take on the wing attack role, working well with Tayla Earle and Monica Falkner to keep Grace Nweke well-fed.
But Nweke didn’t find it simple sandwiched between the Magic defensive tall timbers of Erena Mikaere and Oceane Maihi, but she relished the challenge, and the Mystics led 12-11 at the first break.
With Maihi suffering a nose bleed, the Magic started the second quarter with just six players on court. Hannah Ridling came on at goal defence and immediately nabbed a rebound, but it wasn’t converted by the Magic attack, and the Mystics then scored three in a row to push out their lead.
Maihi’s return was marked by a tip, which helped the Magic get back within two. But the Mystic circle defence of Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick was unrelenting.
Up 28-23 at halftime, the Mystics stuck with their starting line-up and eased their lead out further. But through some dogged defence from Mikaere, the gap came back to four.
Rowland held her own against the hugely experienced Mystics defence but the added height of teenage goal defence Carys Stythe, who entered the game halfway through the third quarter, brought a new dimension.
The crowd erupted when Toeava made her entrance into the game, and with good reason. Her feeding to Nweke was next level, and the MVP goal shoot’s figures were again outstanding (finishing on 47 from 50).
Fitzpatrick’s haul of five intercepts and eight deflections helped the Mystics drive out to a 41-32 lead with another quarter to come.
The Magic returned with the experienced Ariana Cable-Dixon at wing attack for the rookie Georgia Edgecombe, and Mes and Rowland switching bibs. But the Mystics were on a roll, and their double-figure lead continued to grow.