Empty night all round as Steel beaten

Southern Steel shooter Jennifer O’Connell lines up a shot at goal while Waikato-Bay of Plenty...
Southern Steel shooter Jennifer O’Connell lines up a shot at goal while Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic goal keep Erena Mikaere defends. Steel goal attack Kalifa McCollin looks on. PHOTO: LAURA OVERTON
Win or lose — the Southern Steel players would have expected to hear the crowd behind them.

Instead, there was silence when the Steel lost 54-48 to the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Dunedin last night.

The ANZ Premiership match was played behind closed doors at the More FM Arena at the Edgar Centre due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first win for the Magic against the Steel in the competition and it was strong from the start.

The Magic was clinical with ball in hand, taking an early lead, and never releasing the pressure.

The Steel struggled to get into the game but at times looked the part.

Steel captain Gina Crampton was honest and said unforced errors let her side down.

"I think we really killed ourselves on some soft turnovers and I think probably something we are not used to in the past ... Really little things; it got a bit scrappy for us and we didn’t come away with any 50-50 ball," Crampton said.

The Steel won the second and third quarters but let it get away in the final stanza.

“The last quarter was really actually quite crap, I think. I guess five minutes to go we knew that we wanted to be within five for a bonus point and we couldn’t even do that, so disappointing.’

The first quarter was a tight battle but it was the Magic which took an early 14-10 lead.

Magic wing attack Whitney Souness was sharp and direct in her movements, hitting the circle edge and putting in strong feeds to her shooters.

The Steel at times struggled with its through-court transition, the usual leads not quite there.

When there was depth on the ball, it opened up for the Steel.

Midcourt duo Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders were reliable in attack and Saunders put in a big shift bringing the ball through the court.

They fed well to Jennifer O’Connell but she struggled for accuracy in patches and finished on 71%.

Georgia Heffernan was introduced at goal attack for Trinidad and Tobago international Kalifa McCollin, and made an impact on debut.

She slotted her first two goals with ease to help the Steel win the second quarter but it was not enough and the Magic went into the half leading 27-24.

The third quarter was a different story.

Goal defence Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit forced a Magic turnover early, the Steel capitalised and soon it was 28-28.

Selby-Rickit continued to provide a strong square option and helped implement the ball retention for which the Steel is known. Saunders and Crampton continued their work, directing play and putting their shooters into space.

It was goal for goal until the Magic was able to creep ahead and take a 39-37 lead into the final quarter.

The Magic continued its form and it was up by five goals, with 10 minutes to go.

Dropped balls and a strew of missed passes cost the Steel and in the end it was the Magic which won 54-48.

KAYLA.HODGE@alliedpress.co.nz

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