Ranking at stake
After five days of shedding gallons of sweat, the 2013 Africa Netball Championship ended in tears for hosts Malawi’s Queens last evening.
A red crowd trooped out of Blantyre Youth Centre with a heartache of the ‘Flames’ proportion’ after the Queens succumbed to rivals South Africa 54-52 in added time.
The Queens, rallied on by a full house, dominated the second and third quarters. They seemed destined for the third continental title retention only for the girls to lose their legs and with it, their strong will.
Full time had ended at 44-44 after Malawi had allowed the Spar Proteas to wipe out a six-basket lead with some unforced misplacement of passes, especially from the centre court.
Coach Griffin Saenda substituted Tina Kamzati for Takondwa Lwazi, but nothing worked.
It was the first loss for the Saenda side in the eight-member competition. It could not have come at the worst time.
“We lacked penetration from the centre court. It let us down. They were disorganised. This happens when you are playing young girls. I feel disappointed. We could have wrapped up this game,” Saenda said in post-match interview.
It came at a promising time when, after trailing 14-13 in the opening quarter, Malawi shot in front 25-20 then extended it in the third-quarter to 36-33 only for visible lack of endurance to creep in their play in added time.
South Africa, who were consistent throughout the tournament, relied heavily on the precision of goal shooter Vanes-Mari DuToit, but once Towera Vinkhumbo replaced wing defender Joana Kachilika, the Proteas lost their way.
Goal shooter Joyce Mvula led the scoring before Sindi Simtowe took over the business in the third and last quarters.
The Queens, who also lost 48-34 last November to the Proteas in New Zealand, are now hanging by the skin of their teeth as Africa’s number one. The results of the event that ended yesterday will be used for the next rankings.
South Africa are second in Africa and their coach Elize Kotze could not hide her happiness of having beaten a bitter rival.
“South Africa will work harder and build on this. When we headed into sudden death, we knew we would make it,” said Kotze.