The fingertips of the Southern Steel denied the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic the chance to record a win in front of their home crowd at Claudelands Arena on Monday evening, in round 12 of the ANZ Premiership.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit disrupted a pass between Caitlin Bassett and Khiarna Williams in the final minutes of the match and the Steel leaped on the opportunity to secure the win, coming away with the narrow victory, 56-54.
The two-goal loss gave the Magic a bonus point but their record sunk to just one win from 12 games this season.
An energetic defensive effort from Erena Mikaere and Georgia Tong gave the Magic a narrow one-goal lead at quarter-time with their shooters quietly netting 12 of their 13 attempts down the other end of the court.
The defensive duo recorded six gains in the first stanza between them, compared to the Steel's lone gain and put a lot of pressure on the Steel's shooters.
It was a massive turnaround from the Magic's last game when they lost the first quarter 16-9 and the game, 65-50.
While Magic captain Sam Winders was disappointed her team couldn't hold out for the full 60 minutes, she praised the comeback from a series of heavy defeats.
"I just said to the girls, we can't expect the world in a week and I think the turnaround that we've shown tonight, we are pretty proud of that."
Coach Amigene Metcalfe made a raft of changes throughout the game to keep her side in the contest, working without the defensive prowess of Temalisi Fakahokotau, who was out due to illness.
After opting not to renew her coaching contract ahead of the 2022 season, Metcalfe's choices were smart, bringing on the fresh legs of Georgie Edgecombe at wing defence and swapping between Katie Te Ao and Tori Kolose at wing attack for Grace Kara.
Despite the changes, the Steel continued to grind in the second and third quarters, making fewer errors than the home side and extended their lead to seven at the beginning of the final quarter.
Much to the delight of the home crowd, a six-goal run at the start of the final quarter drew the Magic to within one with 10 minutes still on the clock.
The teams traded goals until three unanswered shots from George Fisher, on her return to court after suffering a concussion in round 10, sealed the deal for the Southerners.
This win took the Steel to third on the 2021 ANZ Premiership ladder, ahead of the fourth-placed Tactix who have a game in hand after their round 11 game was postponed due to Covid restrictions.
The Northern Mystics sit at the top, an eight-goal win on Sunday taking them five points clear of the Stars.