The Adelaide Thunderbirds have been eliminated from the 2012 ANZ Championship Finals Series after a heart breaking 49-48 loss to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic in the minor semi-final on Monday night.
A goal from Magic’s Irene van Dyk, who finished the elimination final with a perfect 28 goals from 28 attempts, with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth-quarter brought an end to the Thunderbirds season in the most dramatic fashion.
The Thunderbirds looked destined to progress to the Preliminary Final and end to the Magic’s nine game winning streak until three consecutive goals from the home side levelled the scores as full-time drew near.
A miss from Thunderbirds goal attack Erin Bell, her only fault in otherwise a perfect second half, turned over possession to the Magic with a minute remaining on the clock which resulted in van Dyk’s game winning goal.
“I’m really proud of them but it’s a shattering way to go out of the finals,” Thunderbirds captain Natalie von Bertouch told New Zealand broadcaster Sky following the game.
“We almost had it but we weren’t quite good enough this year.”
After defeating the Thunderbirds by 17 goals only two weeks ago, the Magic looked on track to contest their fifth consecutive Preliminary Final, the only ANZ Championship franchise to participate in every Finals Series since the league’s inception in 2008, after a dominant first quarter.
The Magic, playing in front of a sold-out home crowd at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton, came out firing to lead 15-7 at quarter-time courtesy of flawless shooting from van Dyk and Julianna Naoupu, who converted all 15 attempts.
Momentum was turned on its head and the crowd silenced when the Thunderbirds outscored the Magic 19-8 in the second quarter to assume a three-goal advantage heading into the half-time break, up 26-23.
Bell took on much of the shooting responsibilities in the second half as Magic defenders Casey Williams and Leana de Bruin, reigning league MVP co-recipient, shut down Thunderbirds sharp shooter Carla Borrego after a 13-goal second-quarter from the Jamaican import.
Not daunted by the challenge, the Australian international goal attack held her nerve to convert 10/10 in the third quarter to keep her Thunderbirds team in front at three-quarter time with a 39-38 advantage.
Magic’s Elias Shadrock was challenged by coach Noeline Taurua to find the ball in the fourth quarter which paid dividends as the wing defence created two very important turnovers in the fourth quarter with an interception and deflection.
The turnovers shifted momentum back in favour of the Magic for the first time since the opening quarter as they pegged back the Thunderbirds lead before securing victory on the stroke of full-time to fight on for another week.
The Magic extend their unbeaten run to ten games and set up a Preliminary Final date with the Northern Mystics for the second consecutive year.
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