Gallaher leads Ajax to win over Magic

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
It was a typical contest in the league’s biggest rivalry in many ways.

For three and a-half quarters, little separated Ajax and the South Pac Magic.

But it was Ajax that pulled away down the stretch, claiming a 74-66 win in the Dunedin women’s club competition on Tuesday night.

It was just the Magic’s second loss of the season, and they end the second round atop the table. However, crucially it was Ajax’s second win on the bounce, the usual title favourites having dropped their first four.

The intensity was high and neither team was able to fully pull away until late.

Samara Gallaher showed her class in dropping 25 points for Ajax, notably putting on a dominant streak midway through the second quarter.

The Magic, without key guard Millie Simpson, had led 21-14 at that point, when Gallaher ignited a 10-0 scored solely by herself with a lay-up.

She followed with a catch-and-shoot mid-range jump shot from the free throw line, before adding two triples after a time-out.

It took Ajax out to a 33-24 lead, which became 35-28 at halftime.

That dominance flipped again in the third quarter, as Magic big Fay Fualau-Searle (22 points) showed her class inside and out, to propel her team back to within an arm’s length.

Tia Pavihi (20 points) was prominent for the Magic too, during that stretch.

And while they could not quite haul in Ajax at the final break, trailing 52-50, they snuck ahead just after on a three-point play from Pavihi.

Neither team let the other away, until four minutes to go, when Gallaher again took over.

She hit a pull-up three-pointer to take the score to 63-60, before finishing a scrappy basket under the hoop, after two offensive rebounds.

The Magic called time-out at that point, but it was a deficit they would not erase.

Sarah-Joy Aruwa (17 points) added one at the line for the Magic, before Janet Main (14 points) hit something of a Hail Mary on-the-run triple late in the shot clock.

That extended the lead to 68-61, and it surely would have dealt a mental blow to the Magic.

From there Ajax held their upper hand, their experience helping them to close out a much-needed win.

The Falcons defaulted to University.