Casey Kopua. Image: Supplied.
Fittingly, Casey Koupa received the perfect accolade in her final match on her home court when the Magic outplayed the Northern Mystics 61-52 in Hamilton on Sunday night.
Playing in their special Hobbiton playing strip, the Magic retained the Hobbiton Cup while honouring their legendary defender at the aptly named ‘Casey Kopua Arena’ for the memorable occasion.
In her 17th and final season with the only club she has played for, all Magic players contributed in giving their captain Kopua a winning send-off from the court which has featured so strongly in her career.
A big third quarter gave the Mystics plenty of hope coming down the home straight but untimely erros and the Magic’s ability to absorb and then drive the nail home proved the difference.
There were no suprises in either team, with rising young goal shoots Kelsey McPhee (Magic) and Grace Nweke (Mystics) getting the starting spots for their respective teams.
Both were influential figures during the opening stanza but it was the home side who gained the upper hand during the early exchanges.
Mystics’ defenders Erena Mikaere and Phoneix Karaka caused some concern with their long reaches in the Magic circle but McPhee and her fellow shooter Monica Falkner proved they were up for the challenge.
After level-pegging through much of the first stanza, Magic nosed in front on the back of two decisive surges, a five-goal finishing burst highlighting the home side’s superior possession rates in building a 19-12 lead at the first break.
Player of the moment, Kopua made her presence felt on the resumption, her menacing ability to disrupt the Mystics shooting options throughout the second quarter providing another key strike weapon.
Respective goal attacks Falkner (Magic) and Bailey Mes (Mystics) played strong support roles for their respective teams, but it was the home side who continued to hold sway, better accuracy from attackers Sam Sinclair and Ariana Cable-Dixon getting plenty of ball into McPhee’s hands.
The unflappable shooter remaining rock solid in helping steer the Magic to a healthy 35-25 lead at the main break.
The Mystics defensive trio of Mikaere, Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson turned up the heat on their opponents during the third quarter to get the visitor’s back in the contest.
Scoring the first five goals while keeping the Magic scoreless for five minutes helped slash the deficit as more ball found its way into the dangerous Nweke’s hands.
The game tightened considerably, a more even and exciting contest eventuating as both teams went toe-to-toe in an increasingly absorbing match-up. With the Magic having their lead reduced to 45-41 at the last turn, both teams were in with a chance in the run home.
Official Result and Stats:
Splice Construction Magic: 61
Northern Mystics: 52