Unbeaten Ajax’s late run proves decisive

Zoe Richards. Photo: Supplied
Zoe Richards. Photo: Supplied
A rampant finish has helped Ajax stay unbeaten in the Dunedin women’s club competition.

It scored 21 points in the final quarter to beat the South Pac Magic 54-44 in the match-up of the perennial powerhouses on Tuesday night.

The Magic led nearly the whole game, but Ajax finished on a 15-5 run.

Ajax forward Zoe Richards top-scored with 23 points, but the swing came from Ajax’s penetration in the final quarter.

The Magic’s ability to limit that penetration enabled it to take the early advantage, and backcourt duo Millie Simpson and Georgia Te Au were key in that regard.

Their perimeter defence was significant in generating continuous stops and Simpson’s stints on the court coincided with the Magic’s scoring runs.

The first of those runs came late in the first quarter, as it scored 11 consecutive points.

That stemmed from its smothering defence, alongside Letitia Mullaly and Natalie Visger’s strong rebounding.

South Pac took a 15-10 lead at the first break, which it extended to 20-10 as it pushed up the sideline in transition and attacked off screens in the half court.

But as the stops dried up, so did its offence.

Ajax found its way to the free throw line and forwards Richards and Natalie Ivamy began to have an impact.

They closed the score to 25-21 at halftime and by the end of the third quarter, Magic’s lead was cut to 35-33.

Two lay ups to start the fourth quarter to Mullaly (nine points) helped the Magic stay in front.

But an open lay up followed by a transition basket, both to Kate Edwards (10 points), gave Ajax its first lead at 41-39.

Mullaly got to the hoop once more to even the score, but soon after she picked up her fifth foul.

Te Araroa Sopoaga followed a minute later, leaving the Magic without two of its biggest weapons for the final four minutes.

At that point momentum swung Ajax’s way.

The Magic defence continued to struggle to stay in front of the Ajax players, forcing it to scramble and foul. Richards was clinical in scoring off that, notably making all six of her free throws.

The Magic’s composure turned to frustration, its offence losing its structure and it managed just three more points.

In other games, Andy Bay Kavanagh beat Andy Bay Falcons 80-63, while Varsity beat South Pac OGHS 70-50.

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