Sunshine Girls scrape past Malawi, into World Cup semi-finals

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Photo: Jamaican goal attack Shanice Beckford in full flight. Looking on is centre Paula Thompson. (file photo)

Heavy favourites Jamaica struggled to get past underdogs Malawi in their final second round match on Thursday night (local time) edging the contest 62-61 to set up a semi-final matchup with hosts Australia.

The Sunshine Girls seemed to be in control of the game up to the half time break winning the first quarter 19-13 and the second quarter 19-16 for a first half lead of 38-29.

But a combination of their usually poor third quarter and a very determined effort from the African saw the gap being cut to 48-46 at the end of the third quarter. Jamaica, whose play was too slow at the outset of the match, was unable to find another gear and found it impossible to shrug off their opponents.

Buoyed by their third quarter performance, Malawi kept coming as they traded shots with the Jamaicans in a keen fourth quarter. Malawi managed to cut the lead to just one and remained on the coattails of their opponents all the way to the final whistle.

Most of the Jamaican players looked relieved at the final whistle while some of the Malawi players collapsed to the floor in despair after coming so close to upsetting the favourites.

For Jamaica, Romelda Aiken scored 44/48 while Shanice Beckford took up more of the scoring responsibility to hit 17/18.

There is no doubt that Jamaica will have to turn in a much better performance in the semi-finals.

Head coach of the Sunshine Girls Minneth Reynolds was upbeat in her post game interview despite Jamaica's performance.

"We'll be ready," Reynolds stated. "We didn't come this far to give it away. We want to be in the finals. We have never been in the finals, and these girls are really looking forward to playing Australia.”

In the meantime, England beat South Africa 62-46 to set up a semi-final with New Zealand who beat Uganda 76-33.

The semi-finals will be played on Saturday.