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The Mid City Magic remains a genuine contender for a fifth consecutive Dunedin men’s club title.
However, the St Kilda Saints made it clear they can play with the defending champion at full strength.
The Magic won 105-92 on Saturday, handing the Saints their second loss of the season.
It was the strongest line-up the Magic has put out this year, bringing back Otago Nuggets starters Richie Rodger and Josh Aitcheson.
That duo had 23 and 19 points respectively, while fellow Nugget Akiva McBirney-Griffin had 15.
Despite that, the Magic was forced to rally late to get past the league leaders.
It jumped out to a 29-14 lead in the first quarter, as it poured in seven three-pointers from six different players.
But the Magic scoring slowed through the middle of the game and the Saints pulled the deficit back to 11 at halftime.
That closed even further as Saints point guard Michael Ruske had 19 of his 29 points in the third quarter, bringing the Saints to 74-69 at the end of the third quarter.
The Saints drew level midway through the final quarter as guard James Ross (20 points) took over the scoring load.
However, the Magic was able to hit from deep to get over the line.
Josh Reeves (18 points) hit three triples while Rodger hit two to help the Magic pull away.
It does not quite secure it a spot in the 1v2 quarterfinal — which the winner advances to the final and the loser plays the winner of the 3v4 game.
However, it makes it the likely candidate to fill the second spot to face the Saints in that match on August 14.
The Andy Bay Falcons clinched their spot in the top four with a 103-67 win over Varsity.
Matt Brien led with 18 points, while Ihaia Kendrew had 17 in an evenly spread scoring effort for the Falcons.
Isaac Smiler had 14 points for Varsity, while Joseph Euphrat chipped in with 11.
The result takes the Falcons to a tie for third with the Magic Lions on six wins, leaving the chasing teams unable to catch them due to winning the tiebreak against Varsity and City Rise Bombers.
The Bombers kept their season alive with a 71-58 win over the Magic Lions.
Olly Smith had 19 points as the Bombers held the Lions to just eight fourth-quarter points to pull away.
The result gives the Bombers the advantage over the Lions in a tiebreak, although the Bombers would have to win their final two games and rely on the Lions losing theirs.