ANZ Premiership: Central Pulse clings to Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
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Pulse defender Kelly Jury and magic wing attacker Grace Kara compete for the ball on Sunday in Wellington.
The Central Pulse ended a five-game losing streak, completing a season sweep of Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic.
Led by a powerful shooting performance from Aliyah Dunn and strong team defense, the Pulse beat the Magic 55-51 at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington on Sunday.
The Magic produced an excellent final quarter, threatening to be upset on the approach.
A crucial defensive win from Maddy Gordon helped the Pulse keep the Magic at bay for their fourth win of the season. Despite losing, the Magic earned a bonus point for losing in the five.
A loss to the Tactix on Friday night knocked the Pulse out of the first three finals, but they were desperate to win in front of their home fans.
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Two-time defending champion Pulse has found it difficult this season without club legends Améliaranne Ekenasio (pregnancy) and Katrina Rore (new mother), a new head coach (Gail Parata) and a revamped squad. Outstanding defender Karin Burger also joined Tactix during the offseason.
The Pulse hadn’t won since May 30, when they last played at the Magic, but they ended that five-game losing streak with a well-deserved victory.
It’s been even longer since the Magic last tasted a win. It was their 12th straight loss after beating the Mystics to the top in the first round on April 19.
Dunn stood out in the Pulse end of the shot, missing just three of her 44 attempts during the game.
The Magic hadn’t won since the first round on April 19, but got off to a good start in the capital, taking them to the Pulse in the first quarter.
They held an 11-9 lead early in the game with Caitlin Bassett and Khiarna Williams starting well in the end of the shots.
After a balanced first quarter, where the teams were stuck at 15, the Pulse took the lead in the second term.
The Magic undid that good job with a horror game patch, which has been an all too familiar sight this season.
A 7-0 run and an 8-1 start in the second quarter saw the Pulse take a 21-16 advantage, feasting on Magic’s mistakes and making them pay off.
Things turned from bad to worse for the Magic as the game began to elude them. The spins crippled the Magic, who couldn’t get the ball into their shooting end under the swarming pressure of the Pulse defense.
The Magic regained their composure, responding with a three-goal streak to gain the advantage over Pulse and give themselves some hope before half-time.
There were a few sharp runs for the Magic, going on a 7-2 run to end the first half. Setting him up for an entire game, rather than short stints, has been a problem for the team all season.
Dunn was busy in the first half, converting 23 of 24 attempts as the Pulse took a seven-goal (31-24) lead in the main break.
The Pulse held a seven or eight goal buffer for most of the third quarter, but errors crept into their game late in the term. A pleasant end to the Magic’s third quarter, scoring two quick goals, saw them move into the final five minutes with just six goals (44-38).
To their credit, the Magic never left in the last quarter and kept things tight on the scoreboard.
With five minutes remaining, the Magic were on the hunt 51-47 and felt the end of their long losing streak.
They came close to two at 52-50 with less than three minutes to go, but Gordon’s turnover was the turning point.
AT A GLANCE:
Pulse 55 (Aliyah Dunn: 41/44, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble: 14/17) Magic 51 (Caitlin Bassett: 31/36, Khiarna Williams: 20/23) 1Q: 15-15, HT: 31-24 3Q: 44-38.
Thing MVP Points: Whitney Souness 3, Aliyah Dunn 2, Sam Winders 1.