‘We let it slip’
Francis laments crucial late errors as Sunshine Girls’ wait for world title continues
IN A game of razor-thin margins, Jamaica kept it close and were within range to make history.
But fortune did not smile on the Sunshine Girls this time as the wait for a first Netball World Cup title will go on after losing to world number one Australia 54-57 in their semifinal clash yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jamaica fought back to tie the game at 29-29 at halftime and despite the Diamonds outshooting the Sunshine Girls 13-11 in the third quarter, strong defensive plays had put them up by one in the fourth, staying the course and doing what they could to hold off the Australian charge.
The two teams last met at last year’s Commonwealth Games final, where it was a third-quarter surge that was Jamaica’s undoing. This time, late turnovers and unforced errors in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter doomed Jamaica as the Australians fought back and kept the lead to maintain their 100 per cent record of qualifying for the final.
While there were penalties that were questionable in head coach Connie Francis’ mind, for her, the assessment was simple: costly errors down the stretch doomed them.
“There were some questionable calls but we had our chances and it slipped away. We became a bit indisciplined when it comes to the connection from the midcourt to the shooters. We made a couple of errors that were very costly. We don’t want to speak of the umpires but everything plays into the game. When we were up by three, we knew what we had to do, take care of the ball,” Francis told The Sunday Gleaner.
“But I give the girls credit. We were down by seven and were able to come back. We hung in there but two costly turnovers and the momentum of the game changed.”
It was not the ending that captain Jhaniele Fowler, who scored 46 goals from 47 attempts in her 100th test match for Jamaica, envisioned. Shanice Beckford had eight goals from 10 attempts.
WHAT WAS MISSING
What was also different from their last meeting in that Commonwealth Games final, according to Francis, was their lack of half-court defending.
“I thought we lacked some discipline when it comes to half-court defending when the opposition had the ball. At the Commonwealth Games, we were able to get more steals. But teams are very smart and they would have done their homework on us also. But certainly, we did have our chance, especially in the last three minutes. But we let it go by.
Ace goalkeeper Shamera Sterling, who kept Jamaica in the game ‘til the end, expressed pride at the fight shown despite the defeat and her appreciation for the support in Cape Town.
“Obviously, we are gutted that we lost. But it was a good fight to the end and I’m very proud of the players that came and showed up today. I just want to say a huge thank you to all the supporters that came out. We really, really appreciate it,” Sterling said.
Francis is still intent on coming home with a medal, as the Sunshine Girls face New Zealand in the third-place playoff today at 9:00 a.m.
The Sunshine Girls handed New Zealand their largest defeat in tournament history in their Pool G finale. New Zealand’s reign as champions ended after being beaten by England 40-46.
The Roses will face Australia in the final at 11:00 a.m. Jamaica time.
“For most of the senior players, they started to lock in on that medal today because it is so important that we try for a medal. We just have to ensure that we do everything correctly and take care of the ball and bring it down to our shooters,” Francis said.
The final today between Australia and England will be a rematch of their Pool F finale when the Roses defeated the Diamonds to top the group.
Points 54 57
Shooting Accuracy 95% 92%
Rebounds 5 3
Turnovers 13 12
Penalties 62 55