The Mandurah Magic are headed back to the Women’s State Basketball League grand final for a second straight season after they claimed an enthralling one-point victory over the Perth Redbacks in front of a packed-out home crowd on Friday night.
Just one week after beating the Redbacks by a single point in game one at Belmont Oasis, the Magic women pulled off the exact same feat to sweep the side that finished the year in second place and book their spot in the big dance with an 83-82 victory.
It was a heart-stopping final minute in front of a raucous Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre crowd that saw the Magic cement their return to the grand final, with a free throw from import Regina Palusna giving the home side the lead with just 25 seconds on the clock.
The star centre missed her first at the line, however, inviting Perth to hold for the last shot where a basket would have seen them walk away with the win and force a game three.
But the Magic’s defence held strong in the game’s final possession, forcing Perth into a tough shot that eventually missed and ignited the crowd into chaos at the final buzzer.
Much like game one all-star guard Anita Brown and Palusna were the spark Mandurah needed offensively.
Brown was phenomenal flirting with a triple-double to finish the game with 26 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while Palusna tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds with several of her plays coming when Mandurah desperately needed a basket to stay in touch.
A game three appeared almost certain when a slump in the third quarter saw the Magic fall into an 11-point deficit, but inspired by some huge defensive plays from Kelly Bailey and Emma Klasztorny Mandurah was able to respond to trail by just three heading into the fourth.
Perth looked to be moving fluently on offence in the fourth holding a four-point lead early, but the game turned when their top scorer Kayla Steindl fouled out.
It opened the door for the Magic to turn the heat up, and that they did with Brown piling up the clutch points.
The import from Akron, Ohio was simply outstanding down the stretch, fighting hard for rebounds and scoring at will to buoy her side before Palusna hit what would go on to be the game-winning free-throw.
It’s a miraculous turn of events for the Magic, who have been hampered by injury all season yet have gone undefeated in their opening four playoff games despite missing captain Rachel Halleen for the bulk of the action.
They will need to keep that streak alive if they are to redeem themselves for last year’s grand final loss to Perry Lakes, with this season’s big game to be held against the league-leading Lakeside Lightning at Bendat Basketball Centre in Perth this coming Friday.