Game 1 of the Quarter Finals series between the Mandurah Magic and Perth Redbacks provided intriguing Saturday night viewing for fans as both sides exchanged the best and worst of basketball all in the space of forty minutes. Regardless, the game made for an epic contest that saw the home team draw first blood with a 66-59 win at the MARC.
It was the proverbial tale of two halves with Mandurah providing all the early noise and action before Perth arrived with the second half artillery.
The Magic got off to a blistering start, playing with incredible energy in front of their home fans that propelled them into a commanding position after the opening minutes. The visitors had no answers and looked shell-shocked with the early onslaught and at the end of the first quarter, it was an early fifteen point advantage at 22-7 in favour of the Magic girls.
Despite having star centre Carly Boag with two fouls in the first quarter, Mandurah’s Casey Milo provided all the early highlights with her personal tally of 10 points singlehandedly outscoring the whole Redbacks first quarter effort.
The away team’s offensive efforts provided visiting fans with nothing but empty promises, waiting until seven minutes left in the first half before making their second field goal for the game. Their offensive struggles were compounded by poor defense that the Magic repeatedly picked apart in the early parts of the game.
To make matters worse, Magic guard Nici Gilday joined the scoring party in the second quarter adding 15 points to Milo’s 17 points for the half. For the Redbacks, Donovan registered 7 points in tough opening half where they shot at 16% from the field. At the end of twenty minutes it was a 40-20 blowout in favour of the Magic.
Coach Horwood’s half-time words of wisdom saw the Redbacks score the first four points of the second half while taking a gamble on a 1-2-2 zone against a previously hot shooting Magic squad. However, the move proved productive and on the back of 10-3 run in the opening three and a half minutes, the Magic lead was sliced to thirteen. The visitors found some form from the perimeter and their chances were also handed a huge boost with Boag assessed her fourth foul with still the best part of third quarter remaining. The tide of the game had well and truly turned when Donovan hit a bank three to bring the Redbacks back to within 10 points with three minutes to go in the quarter. The pressure continued for the remainder of the third as the home team continued to struggle offensively against the Redback zone, which was responsible for a 22-9 scoring differential and a Magic lead that had shrunk to seven points.
Three quarter time provided no early answers for the home team with Perth reducing the margin down to three points. With Boag matching up on Jakens and Harmon on the smaller Bree Klasztorny, the Redbacks went to Harmon to expose her size advantage inside to good effect.
The referees then came into the crowd’s calculations as two controversial calls saw Bree Klasztorny foul out on a tough charge call while Boag escaped fouling out on another tough call, this time in favour of the home team. All this, while the contest hovered around a two possession game.
The game reached another turning point inside the last two minutes when Milo fouled out. A Johnson lay-up reduced the margin to four points but a massive corner three by Bailey pushed the margin back to seven. And seven it stayed as the Magic held on for 66-59 win.
The Magic had Gilday and Milo lead their scoring with 23 points and 20 points respectively while the Redbacks second half comeback came to life on the back of their zone and contributions of Harmon, Johnson and Donovan who pitched in 18, 12 and 12 points for the visitors.
The contrasting halves displayed by both teams provided for an exciting contest that would have left both sets of fans with plenty of nerve-racking moments.
The home team would no doubt be very happy taking a 1-0 series lead but will hold some serious concerns as to the near capitulation of the second half. Coach Miegel acknowledged the challenge the Redbacks would pose last week and he will no doubt have his charges better primed for the Redbacks next weekend.
For their part, the Redbacks would be left lamenting another poor start that led to an energy-sapping chase that almost saw them steal a win that looked highly unlikely at halftime. If the Redbacks are to progress past the Magic, they will need to address channelling their energies towards better starts in Game 2 and a possible Game 3.
Article by Vlad Alava
Photo by Mick Cronin