The Sunshine Girls produced a virtuoso fourth quarter performance at both ends of the court to score a resounding 10 points win over arch rivals England, to clinch their three game netball Test Series 2-1 at the National Indoor Centre in Kingston Jamaica on Tuesday night.
The electric atmosphere inside the arena before tip-off told a story of high anticipation from the fans who filled the facility.
England scored the first goal, but unlike game two when the visitors built up an early lead, Jamaica stayed in tow and the two teams traded points to be locked at 8-8 before Jamaica took the lead for the first time at 9-8. The response of the local fans was tremendous. Screams and horns and chants of “defence” turned the volume up and the players seemed to feed off the energy, building up a 12-8 lead before ending the quarter 14-12.
England started the second quarter strongly, scoring three unanswered goals to retake the lead at 15-14. The speed of ball movement and athleticism of both teams resulted in some fantastic play throughout the quarter and the teams could not be separated at half time as they went in tied at 24.
The deadly left handed shooter, Jo Harten, who led the scoring for England, was hitting her shots with deadly accuracy and was ably supported by her co-captain Pamela Cookey. They were being countered by the Jamaica team captain, Nicole Aiken-Pinnock and young Shanice Beckford, with both sets of defenders being pushed to the limit.
The third quarter was no less exciting, no less enthralling and just as close and once again the teams were tied, this time at 37 all at the end of it.
With the game and the series hinged on the final quarter, the Jamaicans made a defensive adjustment that turned the tide in their favour.
The dynamic, talented and very athletic Vangelee Williams was switched from wing defence to goal defence. Her anticipation to get inside the passing lanes and foil the play of the Roses allowed the Sunshine Girls to go on a run from which the visitors could not recover.
The final push was sparked by an interception by Beckford that led to a transition goal which lifted the team. Both Beckett and Fowler were on song in the final push hitting shot after shot with a raucous crowd, most of whom remained standing, cheering them on to victory.
Williams and Stacian Facey were unflappable in defence and for once, England were unable to get the ball into Harten or Cookey.
Kids and adults alike cheered wildly as the clock ticked down and the win got closer and closer. Minister of Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, who has been constant in her support of the girls, willed the ball through the hoop with each shot as the Sunshine Girls pulled away from the world number three ranked team to score a decisive victory at 57-47.
The Jamaicans held their opponents to just 10 goals while dropping in all of 20 in the final quarter.
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who came in at half time for Aiken, led the scoring for Jamaica with 28 from 34, Romelda Aiken had 15 from 19 and Beckford had 14 from 20 for the winners.
For England, Harten had 35 from 38 and Cookey had 10 from 15 while Kadeen Corbin chipped in with 2 from 3.
Sunshine Girls coach, Minneth Reynolds was delighted with the performance of the younger members of the team.
“We lost our centre ((Paula Thompson) to injury so we had to believe in who we have and decided to put them out there. All the players played their role and I just want to say congrats to everyone associated with the team, everyone played their role.”
The move to switch Williams in the fourth quarter was all a matter of timing.
“After watching the tape of game two we realized that the alertness and quickness of Vangelee would be a real asset so we decided to switch her in the fourth quarter and the move paid off. She played her role very well,” Reynolds said.
Williams admitted that the performance of the girls up front helped her make the extra push to get the win.
“We knew what we had to do to win. At half time we spoke about it…we said we had to win. Shanice (Beckford) got the interception and that led to the momentum. I fed off the attackers, getting the tips and getting the ball to them quickly so we could get the goals. I am really happy with the way the team showed up tonight.”
This series was a pivotal part of the girls’ preparation for the World Cup in Australia later this year.