The Mandurah Magic women kept their run of defying the odds alive when they picked up a crucial game one victory in a nail-biting thriller against the Perth Redbacks at Belmont Oasis on Friday night.
Fresh off a clean sweep that saw them knock the Rockingham Flames out of the finals, the Magic once again relished their underdog status with huge performances from Anita Brown and Regina Palusna landing them a 73-72 win and putting them just one win out of a grand final berth.
Brown went for a stunning 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Palusna compiled a complete stat line with 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks to help the Magic secure the heart-stopping game one.
The lead changed hands several times in an enthralling final quarter, with each side making big plays down the stretch.
Kayla Steindl put together a stunning game with 28 points for the Redbacks, and it was a pair of free throws from her that saw the scores level with less than a minute on the clock.
Palusna followed suit knocking down one of her own free throws to give the Magic a one-point lead with 36 seconds remaining – one they would hold on to until the final buzzer with Perth missing a string of shots in crunch time.
The victory keeps the Magic unbeaten through their first three post-season games, and puts them up 1-0 on the Redbacks who finished the year in second place.
As has become routine this season, Mandurah was forced to overcome a set of hurdles including the absence of in-form forward Emma Klasztorny, while sister and fellow Magic star Bree played restricted minutes as she continues a return from injury.
Captain Rachel Halleen saw minimal court time playing just five minutes while she too deals with injury.
In their place it was young gun Jemma Gatti stepping into the starting line-up and producing a strong performance with her nine rebounds helping fill the void left by Emma Klasztorny.
Coach Randy Miegel will be looking for more of the same from his group when they return home to the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre (MARC) for game two with a grand final spot up for grabs.
“I expect a pretty similar game. It will be fairly close again so we need to continue bringing our best,” he said.
“We’ve definitely got a lot of confidence at the moment but at the same time we realise Perth are a great side – we just need to take our home crowd’s support and turn it into a win.”
Emma Klasztorny will return for the game two showdown, which tips off at MARC this Friday, 7pm.