The Magic's hopes of a top-two finish - and with it an extra life in the transtasman league playoffs - have taken a dive after they surrendered second spot on the ladder to the NSW Swifts in Sydney yesterday.
Ranked just ahead of the Swifts going into yesterday's clash by virtue of their superior goal percentage, the Magic were seeking to go two points clear of their rivals and join the table-topping Melbourne Vixens on 18 points. But the Swifts had the same idea - and better execution.
After competing strongly with the home side through much of the opening half, the Magic slipped off the pace in the third period as pushed passes and other basic attacking errors began to take their toll. The introduction of young shooter Malia Paseka late in the third spell saw the Magic's shooting accuracy drop off and their error rate around the circle climb, preventing some impressive late defensive stops from Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin making much of an impact on the scoresheet.
Kopua, who pulled in seven rebounds, two intercepts and had her hand in forcing several other turnovers, said she was disappointed her side lost so much possession through soft turnovers.
"Down the defensive end we had [that urgency], I just wish we had a bit more mongrel throughout the court," the Magic captain said.
"I just think it was silly stuff we were doing, playing against the Aussie sides we can't just run, we have to do the preliminary work off the ball first to make sure we're free."
The 12-goal loss saw the Magic drop to fourth on the ladder, just below their final-round opponents, the Queensland Firebirds, on goal percentage. But next week's meeting between the pair is likely to only determine finishing order, as even if the fifth-placed Pulse secure a win against the Fever in Perth next week - and on the basis of their record across the Tasman that's a big if - their goal percentage is significantly lower than both the Firebirds' and Magic's after their 27-goal capitulation to the Queensland side on Saturday.
While the maths is looking promising, Kopua said her side would still be approaching next week's match in Hamilton as a must-win, especially after their disappointing showing last night.
"Losing sucks, but to be honest I don't care if we are between 1 and 4, so long as we are in the four. But our backs are against the wall now and we need to go out there and prove we deserve to be in the finals."
The Magic will need to produce a more assured attacking performance next week against the Firebirds - a team that prides itself on its robust defence. The Magic started strongly against the Swifts, with Jo Harten and Ellen Halpenny combining for some impressive patches of play to see the visitors trail by just one goal at the first break. But it wasn't long before the Swifts' defence began to wear the visitors down in the second period, forcing the Magic into costly errors to restrict them to just nine goals for the period.
Five goals down at the long break, the Magic lost their way soon after the resumption as hesitancy with ball in hand worked to disrupt their timing and lead to some ugly errors, which the slick Swifts attack end duly took advantage of.
Steel win South Island derbyThe Southern Steel held off the Mainland Tactix 64-60 in a tight South Island derby in Dunedin last night to pick up their sixth win of the season. Mwai Kumwenda scored 52 goals from 58 attempts in a losing cause.