date_range Published 29 Aug 2018
The Mid City Magic withstood a furious comeback to defend its Dunedin club basketball title on Saturday.
Its 25-point lead was reduced to just four with less than five minutes to play, before it closed out an 86-76 win over the City Rise Bombers in the final.
The duo of Josh Aitcheson and Darcy Knox were key for the Magic, with 21 and 20 points respectively.
Just as importantly, they were immense defensively.
It was a thrilling start, as the lead went back and forth.
Both sides lost star players - Aitcheson and Matt Bardsley - for periods in the first quarter through foul trouble, but that did not slow either team down.
Olly Smith (28 points) closed the quarter with two three-pointers to give the Bombers a 25-23 lead at the first break.
It remained tight early in the second quarter, before the Magic lifted.
A Knox three gave it a 37-31 lead and while Steve Robinson (10 points) answered for the Bombers, Matt Dukes (13 points) and Aitcheson both hit from deep to make it 43-34.
That sent the Magic into a period when its offence clicked sublimely and it was clinical in its finishing.
Meanwhile, defensively it was clean and tough, holding the Bombers to four points for the remainder of the quarter.
Dukes hit his third three-pointer of the quarter in the last possession of the half to give the Magic a 55-38 lead and hammer home its dominance.
That continued after the break, as the Magic appeared to be cruising and getting output from a range of scorers.
When Dukes hit two free throws five minutes into the third quarter the Magic extended its lead to 70-45.At that point a huge momentum swing occurred.
The Magic offence went broke and the Bombers found their groove.
Smith was instrumental in that, helping his team in a tough spot as he so often does.
He got to the line twice to finish the quarter and the four free throws had the score back to 70-60 at the final break.
Jivarne Joseph halted the 15-0 run with a floater for the Magic, but it did not stop the momentum.
When Anton Hughes drew a foul on Aitcheson — his fourth — with eight minutes to go and finished the play to make it 74-63, a full comeback was a very real possibility.
Smith hit a three-pointer to make it 74-66 moments later, before Bardsley (11 points) scored three baskets in a row to make it 76-72.
However, that was as close as it got as Aitcheson returned and helped the Magic regain control through to the finish.
Bardsley was named the season’s most valuable player, in a close vote over Aitcheson and James Ross, of the St Kilda Saints.
Thank you to Roslyn Physio for supporting club basketball in 2018.