A valiant second half wasn't enough for the Splice Construction Magic to overcome a disappointing second-quarter performance against the Central Pulse in Round 13 of the ANZ Premiership on Sunday night.
The second quarter was the only one the Magic lost but unfortunately, the Pulse won it convincingly, pushing out to a lead of 12 goals at one point. The Magic won the second half by three goals, but the Pulse came out victorious in the end with a score of 55-51.
Despite the four-goal win, the Pulse have been officially ruled out of title contention, with the other Round 13 results pushing the Central side seven points behind the third-placed Stars.
With only two matches left in the regular season, the Magic are well and truly out of Finals Series contention, recording just one win from 13 outings.
It's been a disappointing season for the Magic - many predicted the side to be at the top of the ladder with a roster studded with stars and experienced players in every third of the court.
However, different issues plagued the team in every outing, sometimes being struck by weak starts, while at other times the result would drift out of their hands in the final quarter.
A lack of consistency and injuries to key players meant a solid playing seven was never established and the team never fully showed their potential.
In Sunday's match, the Magic managed to draw the margin back to two goals with just under three minutes remaining, but the second quarter's errors proved to be pivotal to the result, with the Pulse holding on for their fourth win of the season.
The Magic were unable to find their shooters in the second quarter, which made all the difference as the two teams only missed one goal between them in the 15-minute period.
Reflecting on the game and subsequently, their season, Magic captain Sam Winders noted the side's improvement.
"We've been battling all season with stuff that's definitely outside of our control so all we need to look at now are the things that are.
"Regardless of everything else that's happening around us, [I'm] really proud of the stuff that we did put out there ... happy with the way our team's stepped up each week."
The Magic have two games left in their 2021 season, against the Tactix and the Stars and will be looking to play spoiler and deny one of them a spot in the top three.
In the other match of the day, the Southern Steel defeated the top of the table Northern Mystics 61-58 to temporarily move up to second, while the Mystics still maintain the top spot.
Both teams are sitting on nine wins and four losses, but the Mystics have secured a bonus point for being within five goals in all their losses this season, which takes them four points clear on the table.