Malawi Queens takes on Botswana at noon in a make or break encounter that will see them closer to the finals of the African Netball Associations (ANA) Championships taking place at Blantyre Youth Centre.
So far the Queens have shown their superiority by triumphing over Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Queens relied on a last-quarter surge to outsmart the resilient Zambians 55-43 to top pool A with two wins.
South Africa earned a 73-28 walkover against Swaziland on Wednesday to lead pool B. Proteas face hard to crack Uganda today.
This means the two giants have avoided facing each other in the semi-finals if they win their games today as each will lead their group. Pool A winners will take on pool B runners-up in the semi-finals tomorrow (Friday) whereas pool B leaders will meet pool A second-best team.
On Wednesday, the Queens stirred up emotions of anxiety among fans and netball officials as Zambia led 41-40 seven minutes before the final whistle. But they showed that they have the capacity to turn around tables in split seconds when Sindi Simutowe and Joyce Mvula planted in 13 baskets in quick succession.
The Zambians looked the better side in the game as their attackers Beauty Nakazwe and Lucy Jere proved hard nuts to crack for Queens defence pillars Caroline Mtukule-Ngwira and Towera Vinkhumbo.
The Zambians scored at will forcing the Queens to win the second and the third quarters with single baskets (26-25 and 38-37).
Substitution of Jessica Mazengera for Mvula on the attacking line in the third-quarter was initially not appreciated by Queens’ roaring fans as Mvula missed a lot of scoring opportunities. It was only after she combined well with Simutowe, in the dying minutes of the game, that the towering Mvula proved her worth and was treated like a real queen by the fans.
“At long last, we have made it to the semi-finals,” said Queens coach Griffin Saenda after the encounter.
“They gave us a tough game, but what is important is that we are through. We will rectify our problems and we are confident of defending the title.”
In the other pool, despite South Africa earning a comfortable win over Swaziland, their coach Elize Kotze said they were lucky as they are not used to playing netball in scorching sun.
The hot weather forced Kotze to change almost their entire first line-up by the start of the third-quarter.
“We could have won the match by a bigger margin if the weather was fair enough for us. We are used to playing indoors at home and it was not easy to win with a scorching sun above our heads,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said she experimented with her squad so as not to let Malawi know their game plan for the imminent final encounter with them.
“Our focus is on the finals. We know there is some kind of resistance from our opponents, but we are hopeful to progress to the finals,” she said.