The Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic claimed their second win of the season last night with a 48-47 win over ANZ Premiership leaders the Northern Mystics.
After fading late in their recent matches, the Magic came out on top of a classic see-saw battle on the Mystic's home court in Auckland.
It may have been a low-scoring "ugly" affair – as Magic shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio called it – but the Magic's dogged defence paid dividends in the end.
And they can now claim to be the only team who have beaten the Mystics twice this year.
The Mystics were without their star shooter, Grace Nweke – in the crowd on crutches with an ankle injury – so they turned to Monica Falkner and Filda Vui to hold up their shooting end.
But from the get-go, the Magic circle defence of Leana de Bruin and Erena Mikaere (the eventual MVP) worked in harmony, using their height and long reach to confuse space and tip ball away from Mystics hands.
It was a milestone match for de Bruin – called out of retirement in this Covid-interrupted season – as she played her 226th national league game to equal the record of Laura Langman.
The Magic quickly established a three-goal advantage, but at the opposite end, seasoned defenders Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka weren't to be out-done.
With some nice long range shooting from Vui, the Mystics drew equal. When Vui had to visit the blood bin, young shooter Danielle Binks came on and stood her ground, adding two to the Mystics' total.
But the Magic attack was unrelenting, and Bailey Mes also wasn't afraid to shoot from distance. Once again, she pulled out one of her head-shaking moves – shooting from outside the court, tossing the ball over her head – to ensure the Magic led 12-11 at the first break.
The Magic defence came out firing again, causing the Mystics' attack to hesitate, and the visitors stole a four-goal lead.
Simmon Wilbore came back from hand surgery to replace Georgie Edgecombe at wing attack and worked her way into the game.
Sam Winders was integral to the Magic game at centre, and her opposite Tayla Earle was a workhorse for the Mystics on both attack and defence.
As Vui became more and more confident with her shot, and used her court craft to feed Falkner, she became an important playmaker for the Mystics.
For four minutes, the Mystics stopped the Magic from adding to their score, while they boosted theirs to finally take the lead just before halftime. Then the Magic pulled one back to make it 24-all going into the changing rooms.
Claire Kersten, playing her 100th national league game, had kept close tabs on Peta Toeava for much of the first half, but the Mystics dynamo came into her own in the third spell.
With Fitzpatrick and Karaka doing a stellar job at disrupting the shooting of Ekenasio and Mes (who both shot in the mid-70s) the Mystics built an advantage that jumped out to four, but was back at two, 36-34, at three quarter time.
Yet the Magic proved they were far from done. Mikaere and de Bruin continued to upset the Mystics shooters and grabbed the lead again.
Then the Mystics took their turn to be back up by two, with Vui and Falkner both shooting well, their percentages in the mid-80s.
When Georgia Tong was brought into the Magic defence for de Bruin, Mikaere kept up her incredible work, with her ninth deflection helping the Magic draw level again.
And a goal by Mes against her old Mystics side proved to be the winner, as the Mystics let a chance to take the game into extra time fly by.
Shooting Stats - Mystics:
Filda Vui 29/34 (85%)
Monica Falkner 16/19 (84%)
Danielle Binks 2/3 (67%)
Shooting Stats - Magic:
Bailey Mes 29/39 (74%)
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 19/26 (73%)