The Good Oil Tactix’ ANZ Premiership play-off hopes remain alive after a heart-stopping come from behind two-goal victory over the Splice Construction Magic in Rotorua.
In what was another must-win Premiership match for the Tactix, the Mainlanders nailed a 49-47 thriller at Energy Events Centre and with it three precious points to hold on to second place on the ladder.
But they needed a turnover from wing defence Charlotte Elley in the last 20 seconds of play to stop the game from going into extra time in a match where neither team could gain the ascendancy.
The Magic, buoyed on by their own fans in what was their last home game of the season, looked set to ruin the Tactix’ play-off hopes with a spoiling defensive display while showing plenty of accuracy on attack.
Hometown girl and Magic captain Sam Winders led from the front, providing a vital link through the middle and urging her team-mates to lift as they searched for just their second win of the season.
But a desperate Tactix side, with their play-off hopes on the line, fought hard to the final whistles having to come from two goals down in the fourth quarter to snatch the win.
The Tactix were stung by a long travel day leading into the match, thanks to cancelled flights into Rotorua, but it didn’t look to affect the visitors as they started the match strongly to race out to an early 8-4 advantage.
Patience was needed from the Magic as they waited for something to open in the shooting circle while at the other end of the court it looked an easier route into the safe hands of Tactix shooter Ellie Bird.
But the Tactix’ fast start was soon negated by a Magic team keen to deliver for their fans and their coach Amigene Metcalfe.
Defender Georgia Tong may have given up a number of centimetres in height to her opponents but sparked some defensive fight late in the spell as the hosts levelled the scores with just under three minutes to play.
The Magic’s persistence paid off with an Erena Mikaere intercept helping her side to a 14-12 lead at the first break.
Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek was quick to turn to her bench with Erikana Pedersen replacing Samon Nathan at wing attack, the change making an immediate impact.
Pedersen’s decision making up front – knowing when to play the short game, sighting the options in the shooting circle and connections with goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit – paid dividends for the Tactix as they turned a two-goal deficit into a three-goal advantage.
The shift in momentum prompted a defensive change from the Magic with Temalisi Fakahokotau picking up the goal keeper bib and Mikaere moving forward to replace Tong.
More changes followed, this time from the Tactix camp, as defender Sophia Fenwick celebrated her 50th national league match by coming on for Elley on the wing.
With so much riding on this result, the Tactix went into the half-time changing room with a slender 26-24 lead, desperate to assert some dominance in the third quarter.
But the Magic had other plans, led by Winders, as the ebb and flow of the game continued with the hosts taking it initiative.
The defensive pressure from the Magic forced the Tactix to make changes in the circle with Selby-Rickit, who struggled with her radar for much of the match, pulled from the court with Bird shifted to the unfamiliar role of goal attack and Amelia Walmsley introduced to the game.
It was a chance for Delaney-Hoshek to have a chat and help settle her star goal attack as the visitors went into the last break, trailing by 37-39.