Sunshine Girls ready for NZ test
Jamaica's Sunshine Girls will look to tie up top spot in Pool A when they face defending champions New Zealand in Commonwealth Games netball action at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre this morning at 11:30 (5:30 a.m. Jamaica time).
The Jamaicans secured a spot in the semi-finals on Monday night with a totally dominating 81-50 win over a dangerous-looking Malawi team, in a show of force, dynamism and a level of tactical discipline not always featured in Sunshine Girls performances.
Technical director Jill McIntosh and coach Minneth Reynolds once again assigned top goal shooter Romelda Aiken with goalkeeping duties, in an effort to slow down the dangerous Mwai Kumwenda - Malawi's star shooter - who had averaged 45 goals per game going into the match.
Kumwenda had a miserable night, shooting 31 goals, as the Jamaicans' strategy seemed to work, with Aiken pulling down two defensive rebounds and forcing two deflections in two quarters of solid defensive play.
It's this sort of adaptability that makes the Jamaicans an even more dangerous opposition for the New Zealand-Australia duopoly this time around, leaving Reynolds excited about their chances heading into this morning's cracker of game and happy with their output at both ends.
"We had a game plan. Since she (Kumwenda) was their strongest shooter, we planned to shut her out, and that's what we did. The girls stuck to the game plan very well," said Reynolds. "We are so excited that we are in the semi-finals and are looking forward to seeing what's yet to come.
"We still have another training session and we'll still be focusing on defence with a lot more one-on-ones," she added.
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid led the lines at the other end with 55 goals from 59 attempts - 93 percent accuracy and more than Malawi's total score; with young Shanice Beckford adding 24 goals.
Experienced wing attack Sasher-Gaye Henry was the team's leading playmaker, assisting on 31 of Jamaica's goals.
Henry, who is playing her last Commonwealth Games, is desperate to help get Jamaica back on the podium. The team has only one Commonwealth Games medal - a bronze in 2002.
"I would feel so good if we win a medal here; that's what we really need, we need to get rid of this fourth-place thing," Henry told The Gleaner, before hailing this team as the deepest she has played on.
"I'm not going to say it's the best Sunshine Girls team I have played on, but it's definitely the most balanced in a long time, and we just have to be ready to show that, to go out there and give it out best shot because we have a lot of depth," said Henry, who is one of five players who won bronze at the 2007 World Netball Championships and two that won silver at the 2000 World Youth Netball Championships.
"Our objective is to execute well and definitely make our way on the podium," Henry declared.
- André Lowe