Kukoma Diamonds on Saturday won the Rainbow Paints Blantyre and Districts Netball League (BDNL) first round unscathed following a 40-33 triumph over rivals First Choice Tigresses in a thrilling derby at Blantyre Youth Centre (BYC).
They have completed their first round fixtures at the summit of the 11-team log-table with 20 points from 10-straight wins, two points ahead of second-placed Tigresses. The Diamonds are on track for a second successive league title defence.
However, they did not get the vital victory on a silver platter. They experienced their toughest test in the league this season before taking a seven-basket lead in the last few minutes of the match.
The encounter saw Diamonds leading 10-7 in the first quarter before taking the tally to 20-15 in the second segment.
With lofty shooter Tendai Masamba and eagle-eyed goal-attacker Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya giving Dimoands’ veteran defenders Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda and Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira tough time under the loop, Tigresses appeared to be on their way for a comeback victory.
They further cut Diamonds’ lead by two for the third quarter to end 29-26 and they could have even won the match had they not been wasteful in the last quarter, where they managed to have a single-basket difference before Diamonds’ goal-scoring duo Alinafe Kamwala and Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi put the game beyond their reach.
“This was our toughest victory this season and we are delighted to have maintained our unbeaten run,” said Diamonds assistant coach Noel Mussa. “Our mission is to defend the title and preserve our perfect record. It feels good to be on the right track.”
Tigresses coach Peace Chawinga-Kalua, whose side underwent a successful two-year rebuilding exercise, hailed her charges for a spirited performance and said they are confident of coming back from the shadows to beat Diamonds in the second round and win the title.
“In this game, we lacked smart mid-court movements that made it difficult to have a good supply to the goal-circle and we hardly converted our chances, especially in the last few minutes of the game,” she said.
“Nevertheless, we still have a chance to win the league. We can come back and win the rest of our games, including the second-round derby.”
Diamonds chairperson Lumbani Mtonyo said their sponsors were happy with their performance and have arranged a surprise package to motivate their players. In other games, Tropical Queens beat Serenity Stars 78-20 and Chilomoni Sisters 70-23 to finish the first round third on the table with 16 points. Shizaella Queens registered a 42-35 triumph over Chileka Sisters.