It was an unhappy return to her home court for the transtasman netball league's first 100-gamer, Laura Langman, as the Magic outshone the Mystics in Hamilton last night.
Marking her 100th consecutive ANZ Championship game against her former side, Langman had hoped to celebrate her milestone game with a win - for the sake of the Mystics' season rather than any sense of sentimentality. But the Mystics could not match the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side's patience and accuracy on attack as Magic import Jo Harten dominated in the shooting circle with an impressive 44/46 return. The Magic remain in second place on the league ladder after the win. But they are now on equal points with the table-topping Vixens, who have played an extra game.
Mystics captain Maria Tutaia said a lack of consistency with their execution on attack cost her side.
"You've got to give credit to the Magic, they played with great persistence, great patience and we can really learn something from that," said the star shooter, who shouldered the bulk of the Mystics' shooting duties last night at Claudelands Arena.
The opening three minutes of the match perhaps best told the story of the Mystics' night. The visitors made a huge impact defensively in the opening exchanges, with young gun Temalisi Fakahokotau, who started at goal keep after impressing off the bench in recent games, coming up with two steals and rebound to spoil the Magic's first three possessions. But the Mystics were unable to convert any of these opportunities, ensuring the Magic's early jitters did not cost them.
It was that same inability to capitalise on turnover ball that proved the Mystics' undoing after 60 minutes.
Having been let off the hook for their poor start, the Magic took a 12-8 lead in the late stages of the opening quarter, before a couple of timely pick-ups from Anna Harrison and Langman saw the Mystics close out the period with five unanswered goals to lead 13-12 at the first break.
That lapse in concentration angered coach Julie Fitzgerald, who sent her side into the second quarter with a clear brief to atone for their sloppy finish to the opening spell. And they did just that, putting their foot down in the five minutes before halftime to take a 29-23 lead heading into the second half.
After taking a four-goal lead early on in the second spell, the Mystics would have been disappointed to let their opponents get such a jump on them, with silly errors on attack proving their undoing. Three offensive penalties against Cathrine Latu, who enjoyed a physical battle with her Silver Ferns teammates Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin all night, were especially costly.
Needing to make their move quickly in the third period or risk the game slipping away from them, the Mystics rallied strongly after the break with some super shooting from long-bomb queen Maria Tutaia inspiring a mini-comeback.
But, again, the Auckland side could not maintain that intensity in the final few minutes of the quarter, and as a result still trailed by five at the final turn.
The Melbourne Vixens ran out 38-goal winners over the champion Adelaide Thunderbirds, 64-26.
The NSW Swifts suffered their second loss on the trot yesterday, copping a 15-goal 55-40 hammering at the hands of the Queensland Firebirds.
Jo Harten 44/46
Ellen Halpenny 12/20
Cathrine Latu 17/20
Maria Tutaia 33/37
Other round 8 results:
Melbourne Vixens 64-26 Adelaide Thunderbirds
Queensland Firebirds 55-40 NSW Swifts