…lose to Jamaica by single basket
Malawi Queens missed the 2015 Netball World Cup semi-final slot by a whisker on Friday after losing to their bigger opponents Jamaica by a single-basket during their nail-biting make-or-break group E match at All Phones Arena in Australia.
So painful was the loss that the Queens’ shooting duo of Mwawi Kumwenda and Sindi Simtowe could not hold their emotions. The two broke down in tears after a skin-deep 62-63 defeat by the Sunshine Girls.
Had they drawn, the Queens could have made it into the last-four stage for the first time since their first Netball World Cup appearance in1995, on a better aggregate.
Going into Friday’s encounter, the Queens had produced four wins and had narrowly lost by eight baskets to New Zealand while Jamaica had won three and lost two. Their record 101-18 triumph over Sri Lanka few days ago, could have also played the magic for the Queens to get over the semi-final qualification line.
The Queens got off to a shaky start, losing 13-19 in the first quarter and 29-38 at half-time. However, a third-quarter surge that saw them scoring seven baskets more than the Sunshine Girls helped them to cut the deficit to only two baskets at the end of the segment that ended 46-48 in Jamaica’s favour.
With the tournament’s top scorer Kumwenda converting 39 of her 41 scoring chances to achieve a 95 percent shooting accuracy in the game and Simtowe, who was having her 50th test cap game, accomplishing 100 percent accuracy with 23 baskets, the Queens managed to produce the best result against Jamaica at the global contest.
Takondwa Lwazi also played a pivotal role in the Queens’ bid for the semi-final berth. Of course, being the tournament’s shortest player at 1.63-metre height, it could be difficult for Lwazi to be a key distribution point as a centre, but she more than made up her agility and stamina to make quick turnovers and subtle goal assists.
The Queens have so far met the Jamaicans thrice in the World Cup, including their 36-86 defeat in 1999. They also suffered 81-50 loss during the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The latest result, therefore, means the Queens have made great strides in upping their game despite relying on substandard netball infrastructure and being entangled in netball politics back home.
It is also relieving to note that the Queens produced the latest result despite having five scoring chances less than the Sunshine Girls, who had 69 against the Queens’ 64. The fact that the Queens managed an overall 97 percent shooting accuracy against Jamaica’s 91 is something for Malawians to smile about.
It was also a relief to note that the Queens found solace in having Kumwenda as the competition’s top-scorer, so far, with 237 baskets out of 258 chances.
Within their five appearances in the Netball World Cup, Malawi team has so far played 37 games, winning 17 and losing 20, giving them a World Cup winning percentage of 45.9.
“They have learnt some lessons for the future. But, all in all, they have made the country proud with their enhanced performance at the World Cup,” said Sports and Youth Development Minister Grace Chiumia after the game.
The Queens’ official sponsors Airtel Malawi, who pledged K100 000 to each player if the national team could beat Jamaica, said through public relations and communications manager Edith Tsilizani they are still happy with the result.
Nevertheless, she said they are yet to discuss how to reward the Queens for their upgraded display. n