Malawi national netball team, the Queens, yesterday struggled to overcome Zambia 51-45 at the Africa Netball Championship in Kampala, Uganda to pile pressure on hosts Uganda in the battle for the title.
The Queens had to survive the neighbours’ scare.
Despite winning the first quarter, they were held at half time, but recovered in the third and fourth.
The victory was Malawi’s third after they also beat defending champions Zimbabwe in the opening game and Namibia in their third match.
The Queens are second on the log table, having lost to tournament favourites and hosts Uganda in their second game.
Uganda beat Zimbabwe earlier yesterday to maintain their 100 percent record.
Malawi’s last game is against fast-improving Botswana while Uganda wrap up their campaign against Zambia this afternoon.
However, the six-basket triumph seem too little for the Malawians to keep the title hopes alive because they are tasked to win their last game against Botswana this afternoon with an incredible score margin and pray that favourites Uganda stutter in their final match against Zambia today.
So far, the high-flying She Cranes have 120 basket difference while the Queens’ basket difference is only 19.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) general secretary yesterday Carol Bapu sounded sceptical when asked if Malawi is still in contention for the title.
“It is difficult to say we are in contention for the continental glory, but at least we can afford a smile after the victory against Zambia,” she said.
The Queens started the game with all guns blazing although their opponents fought back for the first quarter to end 11-9.
The Zambians came with renewed vigour early in the the second quarter where they scored three baskets without reply to put the game at 12-12 at one point.
The Queens tried their best to recaptured their groove, but the Zambians did not let it go as the two sides tied at 24-24 by the halftime break.
Malawi were a much improved side at the start of the third quarter where they managed to extend their lead by seven baskets at one point only to lose rythm towards the end of the segment when the Zambians narrowed the deficit with two unanswered baskets for Queens to lead 39-34.
Sensing danger, Queens coach Griffin ‘Zagalo’ Saenda made two changes in the final quarter.
He pulled out wing defender Wezzie Mzemba-Msiska and wing-attacker Beatrice Mpinganjira for Martha Dambo and Bridget Kumwenda, respectively.
The changes paid dividends as the Queens started to attack with purpose; taking the game to their opponents’ danger zone and forcing them into a number of unavoidable errors.
This helped the Queens’ attacking duo of Mvula and Jessica Mazengera-Sanudi to have an easy task under the loop to widen the basket difference by six baskets at the final whistle.
Had they lost to Zambia yesterday, sixth positioned Queens could have suffered a huge setback in their quest to improve their rankings that will be released after the tournament, having already lost to Uganda. n