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Magic and Sting book semifinal spots

Magic and Sting book semifinal spots

A convincing 59-34 win over the Southern Victorian Otago Rebels today sealed a National Bank Cup netball semifinal spot for defending champions Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic supported by Sleepyhead with two rounds remaining.

Last year’s fellow finalists the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Sting also booked their place in the last four with a comfortable 55-44 win over The Trusts Diamonds in Invercargill yesterday to retain second place after five rounds.

The Fujifilm Force, Diamonds and Ballantynes Canterbury Flames will battle for the two remaining places over the final two rounds.

The Magic had little trouble chalking up their fifth straight win of the season today to remain unbeaten and effectively had the match wrapped up at halftime when they led 31-12.

The young Rebels team again struggled with their accuracy in the shooting circle but there was a glimmer of hope for the rest of the season and beyond when Lizzie Sandom was introduced for the second half. The young goalshoot showed plenty of poise with a standout performance in her debut at this level in nailing 18 shots from 18 attempts.

Both goalkeepers Casey Williams – for the Magic – and the Rebels’ Kahurangi Waititi had impressive games with Waititi claiming 11 clean intercepts for the losers. Silver Ferns shooter Irene van Dyk missed just two shots before being spelled in the final quarter and while the win was never in doubt, the Magic were messy at times and lacked consistency.

``I see so much in these girls and I think we’re still only running at about 70 percent of our potential,’’ Magic coach Noeline Taurua said afterwards.

``It’s just the fine-tuning we’re looking for, putting the ball into better space, attacking the ball on defence and better angles.’’

There was a sigh of relief from the Flames camp in Christchurch today after they were pushed all the way by the Genesis Energy Shakers before coming out narrow 46-44 winners.

The three points moved the Flames into joint fourth equal with the Diamonds and kept their chances of a place in the semifinals alive.

With a bonus point picked up for finishing within five goals, the Shakers moved up to sixth on the table. The Shakers had the better of the first half today but were pegged back in the second half by the strong-finishing Flames.

The Sting showed their class in fending off a spirited Diamonds challenge yesterday, the visitors hanging on for threequarters of the match before the southerners powered home in the final quarter with a rampant display.

It was a gritty effort from the Diamonds who were still well in the match going into the last quarter. The Sting soaked up all the pressure and raised their own performance another notch to shut the visitors out with a forceful and superior second half effort.

Shooting partners Belinda Colling and Natalie Avellino, who replaced an ailing Tania Dalton at halftime, were in sublime form. The twin playmakers controlled the Sting’s attacking end of the court on the back of a strong team effort, the experience of the home team eventually snuffing out the Diamonds challenge.

Defenders Megan Hutton and Jenny Ferguson put the brakes on the Diamonds shooting options with a string of timely intercepts and some effective shot-blocking which enabled the home team a decisive 30-19 advantage in the second half.

Under pressure the Diamonds fell off the pace in the final 15 minutes with a rash of unforced errors, the last quarter blowout also denying the Diamonds a vital bonus point, which could prove costly in the race for playoff spots.

In the other match yesterday, the Fujifilm Force got their campaign back on track, after two successive losses, with a 57-42 win over the More FM Flyers in New Plymouth.

With a 29-17 halftime lead, the Force were well in control but the young Flyers team came back strongly to compete on even terms in the second stanza, losing the half by just a solitary goal.


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