Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunshine Girls' awesome victory!

Jamaica's goal attack, Nichala Gibson (right), looks to pass the ball over the hands of Australia's goal defence, Mo'onia Gerrard (second right), during the opening match of the two-Test Sunshine Series netball match at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday. The Sunshine Girls rebounded yesterday to score an exciting 56-55 victory and tie the series 1-1. They had lost the opening game narrowly, 51-53 - Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

Awesome victory! - Sunshine Girls net thriller to tie series against Australia

The Gleaner | Monday | October 19, 2009

Andre Lowe, Senior Sports Reporter

Jamaica's Sunshine Girls produced a scintillating display to get the better of world number-one team, Australia, 56-55, and secure their first win over the Diamonds since 1998 in their National Commercial Bank Sunshine Series matchup at the National Indoor Sports Centre yesterday evening.

The Jamaicans reversed Saturday night's 51-53 loss to the Australians, to tie the two-match series 1-1.

Overcome with emotion, a tearful Connie Francis, coach of the Sunshine Girls, was proud of her charges but was concerned with the number of turnovers that they surrendered.

Just believe

"I am very happy. This is my first win over Australia as coach. I thought from the beginning that we had the talent within our team to do well, it was just for them to believe in themselves and they really went out there and asserted themselves," said Francis.

"I think we lapsed a little bit in terms of taking care of the ball, but we'll be working hard on that," she pointed out.

In a keenly contested encounter where both teams matched strides on every inch of the court, the Jamaicans managed to come out on top with quarterly scores of 15-14, 28-26, 41-43 in a see-saw game that offered everything in terms of excitement.

Experienced defenders Althea Byfield and Nicole Aiken showed all their class with a string of key interceptions and helped the Jamaicans to a five-point lead six minutes into the second quarter.

They were, however, stifled by a number of turnovers which allowed the Australians to cut the deficit and claw their way back into the game, to close the quarter two points behind, 28-26.

Seasoned campaigner Sasher-Gaye Henry was introduced in the third quarter in place of centre Paula Thompson, whose position was filled by Nadine Bryan.

The moves seemed to lift the Jamaicans' physical presence, but this did not stop the number-one ranked Australians from finally pulling level with 10 minutes left in the period.

Nicole Aiken went down injured and had to be replaced by 18-year-old national Under-21 standout, Malysha Kelly.

Kelly got involved in the thick of the action right away but could do little as the visitors racked up a 35-32 lead to silence the extremely loud masses inside the venue as the quarter ended 43-41 in favour of the Australians.

Nicole Aiken and Thompson returned for the final quarter, which is when the Jamaicans really showed their worth in a demonstration of intensity and determination that allowed them to firstly level and then pull in front 48-47 with nine minutes left.

Both teams exchanged the lead a couple of times before the locals closed the encounter with a moment of brilliance from captain Simone Forbes, who athletically played the ball to Romelda Aitken, who obliged by scoring the all-important winning goal.

Aitken shot 33 from 46 attempts, while Forbes supported with 23 from 26. For the Australians, Natalie Medhurst scored 22 from 24 to lead their lines with Catherine Cox, who got 12 from 16.

Tough encounter

Australia's coach, Norma Plummer, said: "It was another tough encounter that went right down to the wire again and I must say congratulations to Jamaica.

"But it's a drawn series, I can't say that I am totally shattered by the loss but it was a tough series for us."

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaica Netball Association, Marva Bernard, could hardly contain her delight.

"This was an amazing display from the girls. They stuck out and fought hard ... this little island fought hard and defeated a continent, I am proud."

The Sunshine Girls will now turn their attention to tomorrow night's two-Test series-opener against New Zealand at the same venue.

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