National women's netball team goal-shooter Kalifa Mc Collin led all scorers as Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel edged a confidence-boosting 41-40 victory over Splice Construction Magic when matches in the Netball New Zealand ANZ Premiership continued at Auckland Netball Centre, on Sunday (July 19).
The importance of the match was evident in the desire from both teams as they look to haul themselves off the bottom of the ANZ Premiership ladder and remain in contention for a Finals Series spot.
The win was just the second for a Steel side which has been hit hard in the shooting circle with two key injuries, coach Reinga Bloxham opting for Kiana Pelasio to join Mc Collin in the first half.
It was the Magic who was quick out of the blocks to score five straight goals, for a 5-1 lead, as goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou took the lead in the shooting circle landing all but one of her nine first-quarter attempts.
But that was as big as the lead got throughout the first-half as the Steel pegged back the difference through the efforts of experienced midcourters Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton, the southerners trailing 9-10 at the first break with Mc Collin scoring six of nine attempts.
Midway through the second spell, the Magic edged ahead as Kelsey Mc Phee lifted her workload, despite being troubled by her right knee, but the side couldn’t shake the Steel in another tight 12 minutes of play.
The T&T import and her team-mates struggled to find their rhythm upfront as they continued to bed in the new attacking line, but their trademark patience with ball in hand was key in getting the ball to Mc Collin who was the dominant scorer, with seven from eight attempts in the second quarter as both teams went into the half at 20-20.
With just under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Steel introduced Ellen Halpenny while at the other end of the court, the Magic turned to the bench again with Khiarna Williams replacing Mc Phee.
Paced by Mc Collin's seven goals from nine attempts at goal attack, the Steel opened up its biggest buffer to go into the fourth quarter with a 31-27 advantage.
But it was the Magic which came out with a spring in their step as they closed the gap to just one goal, Williams settling well in the shooting circle and growing in confidence.
The Steel, however, used all of their experience through the middle, along with the netball nous from Halpenny, to slowly regain their ascendancy for a five-goal buffer.
Magic coach Amigene Metcalfe was not done with the changes heading into the last five minutes of play with Jenna O’Sullivan coming on for Fowler on defence, enough to spark her side for one last assault on the scoreboard.
They again pulled the Steel to within one but were unable to make a vital turnover on the southerners final centre pass, netting the bonus point in the one-goal loss.
In the end, Mc Collin led with 24 goals from 30 attempts, Halpenny, a perfect nine from nine and Pelasio, eight from 11 for the winners, while Latu-Meafou led Magic with 22 from 24, Mc Phee added ten from 14, and Khiana Williams, eight from ten attempts.
Overall, Mc Collin who celebrated her 25th birthday on Sunday has converted 133 goals from 164 attempts, at 81 per cent shooting and eighth spot on the scoring list.
Mc Collin and her team-mates will be back in action on Monday (July 20) from 3 am (TT time) when they face The Good Oil Tactix, who are coming off a narrow 32-33 loss to table leaders Central Pulse, yesterday as well.