Jamaica has held off a gallant Malawi, winning 63-62 to seal a place in the Netball World Cup semi-finals in Sydney.
Malawi brought the same drive and determination that saw them nearly topple New Zealand two days ago, the Queens surging from behind to within a goal’s margin of Jamaica during the third quarter on Friday and maintaining the pressure throughout the final term.
The Malawi Queens weren’t going to exit the tournament without a fight, and a 17-10 goal third quarter going the way of the African nation helped reduce the margin with a quarter remaining to 48-46.
Jamaica’s 59-47 win over Uganda on Thursday drew them level on points with Malawi, meaning the first game of day-eight competition was a two-horse race for a semi-finals spot alongside Australia, New Zealand and either England or South Africa, who were playing at the time this story was posted.
Jamaica’s 196-centimetre goal shooter Romelda Aiken (44 from 48), who also stars for the Queensland Firebirds, was too crafty for the Malawi defenders, who had trouble stopping some excellent service from centre Paula Thompson and wing attack Khadijah Williams.
Aiken knew Malawi would not be easy-beats and said she was looking forward to a semi-final against the Diamonds.
“It was a tough game,” Aiken said. “Of course all the African teams stepped it up quite a lot. It was really tough out there. We had to just stick to the game plan and just keep doing what we’re doing.
“They [Malawi] always come out to play really hard and it was up to us to just stick to what we know best. Even though we got hit, we need to take it, and I guess ‘man up’ and just continue with the job.
‘I’m excited about tomorrow. It’s another challenge and we play to live another day. It’s going to be a lot of recovery and watching the (Diamonds’) game and see where we can adjust to ensure that we can come out victorious.”
A reasonable crowd at All Phones arena threw their support behind the underdogs that were Malawi, and as more people cleared their vocal chords, Malawi rose to the occasion.
What makes Jamaica’s semi-finals berth impressive is the fact they are the youngest team at the World Cup – the average age of the squad is 23.9 years.
A win against the Australians would make it Jamaica’s most successful campaign ever after three third placings in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
The win means the Sunshine Girls are likely to play defending world champions Australia in a semi-final on Saturday.
Malawi Queens goal shooter Mwayi Kumwenda conceded it was a tough encounter but insisted they tried their level best.
“It was a tough game but a painful defeat because despite trying hard to come back into the game the damage was already done,” said Kumwenda-mana.