Magic pip Mystics in netball thriller

Jun 8, 2015 - 9:44 AM Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic wrapped up the trans-Tasman netball league's New Zealand conference title with a 57-54 win over Northern Mystics in Auckland on Monday.

The victory means they'll host Australian conference runners-up NSW Swifts in next week's ANZ Championship semi-final in Hamilton, while the Mystics travel to Brisbane to play conference winners the Queensland Firebirds.

The game was decided on the smallest of margins: goal defence Casey Kopua pounced on a rare miss from Mystics goal attack Maria Tutaia, the turnover just enough to edge the Magic ahead with five minutes remaining.

Neither team gained any real traction in the first half, the Magic shading the Mystics 16-15 in the first quarter and the home team edging the second spell 13-12 to level the scores 28-28 at halftime.

Both teams were guilty of coughing up possession with basic handling errors, with the Mystics forcing more turnovers but unable to find the final pass into the circle for their shooters to convert.

The Mystics' through-court defence grew more stifling as the game wore on, pushing Magic midcourters Sam Sinclair and Grace Rasmussen out wide and slowing their drive through the middle.

Rasmussen and Mystics wing defence Serena Guthrie battled mightily for the circle edge, with the English international working hard to restrict Rasmussen's feed into her shooters.

Goal shoot Jo Harten was again a mainstay in the Magic circle, her combination in the first three quarters with mercurial goal attack Malia Paseka particularly impressive.

Harten, who shot 35 from 38, and Paseka (22 from 26) constructed a quick-moving and mobile circle combination, with Paseka's elevation and work on the baseline particularly impressive.

They were under constant pressure, Mystics goal defence Kayla Cullen having one of her best games to date while keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau's hunting outside the circle was timely and effective.

In the Mystics circle, the Silver Ferns combination of Tutaia and Cathrine Latu were slick and accurate.

Latu went nearly 50 minutes before she missed a shot, and finished the game with 96 per cent accuracy in sinking 26 from 27, while Tutaia's long bomb was on song as she converted 28 of her 32 attempts.

The Mystics edged ahead 43-41 at the three-quarter mark, but three quick Harten goals early in the final spell levelled the scores at 45-45 to set up a frantic finish.

Source: AAP

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