JUST AS SWEET! - Bronze again for Sunshine Girls

...England win gold after stopping hosts Australia 52-51

Observer writer

Monday, April 16, 2018

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The Jamaica netball team rebounded from the heartbreaking one-goal loss to England in their semi-final game on Saturday, to score a 60-55 win over New Zealand in the bronze medal match and secure the country's 27th and final medal of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

It was the first time that Jamaica were defeating the Kiwis in a major tournament.

Cheered on by a handful of loyal fans, the Girls, who had less than 24 hours to recover both physically and mentally from their semi-final game, took to the court with purpose, obviously determined to not leave Australia without a medal.

Jamaica got off to a solid start in the first half, getting the ball in to Jhaniele Fowler-Reid who was able to do the early damage against the Silver Ferns.

The defensive pair of Shamera Sterling and Stacian Facey did well to limit the New Zealand attack as the quarter ended 15-11.

The Silver Ferns came charging back and levelled things up at 24-all with four minutes left to go in the second quarter. Jamaica's head coach Sasher-Gaye Henry then went to her bench, bringing in Romelda Aiken for a fatigued Fowler-Reid and Jodi-Ann Ward for an injured Facey.

Jamaica then took back control of the game as Aiken found her range quickly to give Jamaica a two-goal half-time lead at 29-27.

Two quick turnovers by the Jamaicans allowed the Silver Ferns to draw level at the start of the third quarter before they took a two-goal (30-32) lead.

It appeared that another third-quarter malaise was about to befall the Sunshine Girls, but those fears were quickly put to rest as Jamaica increased their defensive intensity to force some New Zealand turnovers.

Sterling and the energetic Ward made some key interceptions and blocks that allowed Jamaica to build up a seven-goal lead (41-34), as Maria Folau and Bailey Mess found the going tough in the New Zealand front court.

The intensity on the defensive end, which included the efforts of the versatile Vangelee Williams who had been switched from wing defence to goal defence, was matched by some equally good through court play as the Girls systematically moved the ball from defence to attack.

The energiser-bunny, Shanice Beckford continued to be the main supplier in attack, finding Aiken as easily as she had found Fowler-Reid. The consistent third-quarter player allowed the Sunshine Girls to keep the Silver Ferns at arms length, as they led 46-39 at the end of the third quarter.

The fourth-quarter performance by the Sunshine Girls was a very mature one, as they were able to maintain the gap of at least six points for most of that quarter.

Despite limping around in her defensive circle, Sterling continued to put in a sparkling performance and came up with more key interceptions and blocks, along with Williams whose aggression in the defensive circle is a nightmare to shooters.

The final two minutes of the game was a tactical masterclass by the Jamaicans, who managed the clock through proper ball possession while scoring on almost each possession. The final whistle brought great celebrations from the Jamaicans, who were scoring their third-consecutive win over the Silver Ferns in a month.

Captain Fowler-Reid said that leaving Australia empty-handed was unthinkable, as she described the performance of the team as “amazing”.

“It's amazing, definitely. because yesterday we came out hard because we wanted to play in the final, but we learnt from the one-goal loss which is fine for us. We knew we did not want to feel that feeling again so we went out there hard, had a good game, had some bumps, but we picked it up and, yes — we were successful at the end,” she said.

She admitted that getting mentally prepared for the bronze medal match had been quite a challenge for herself and the team.

“I had to recover myself because I was very devastated by the loss… we saw it right there and we just didn't cross the line. I had to rally them around; I spoke with them and I gave them some encouraging words and I told them that we didn't come here for nothing,” said Fowler-Reid.

Jamaica's medal tally at the games reads: seven gold, eight silver and 12 bronze, for a total of 27.

Swimming contributed one medal, netball one medal, while track and field contributed 25.

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