Malawi Queens’ title campaign at the African Netball Championship in Kampala, Uganda suffered a big blow yesterday when they lost 43-66 to their hosts at the Lugogo MTN Arena.
The loss means the Queens have to win all their remaining games against Namibia this afternoon, Zambia tomorrow and Botswana on Thursday to have a realistic chance of taking the crown. They also need to rely on other teams to beat the high-flying Ugandans.
The defeat is also a big threat to Queens’ standing on the International Netball Federation (INF) rankings that will be updated on July 1 because this is the second time the Malawians have lost to the She Cranes after a 39-52 beating in an international friendly last Wednesday.
Currently, the Queens are sixth in the world with a rating of 137 while Uganda are13th with a rating of 84.
Yesterday, the Queens started comfortably; taking the game to their hosts only to lose concentration at the end of the first quarter with the She Cranes leading 13-11.
However, the game monitored on GOtv started getting out of reach for the Queens in the second segment, where the Ugandans increased their tally by five baskets as the quarter ended 27-22 in their favour.
With home support, Uganda dominated the affairs with ease; forcing the Queens to chase their own shadows as the tallest player on the court Peace Proscovia planted a barrage of baskets at an incredible 98 percent shooting accuracy.
Things got worse for Queens in the third quarter as they were reduced to six players after improvised goalkeeper Alinafe Kamwala was sent off for repeated fouls on the Ugandan captain, who is that country’s sole professional netballer.
And this resulted in the She Cranes’ 1.93-metre-tall shooter having a simple job under the loop as she helped the Ugandans to lead by 19 baskets for the segment to end 48-29.
The Queens’ numerical disadvantage continued in the final segment as Kamwala was not allowed back in the court after being suspended for the second time. This made it extremely difficult for the Griffin ‘Zagalo’ Saenda-coached side to muster a comeback into the game as the basket difference extended to 23 baskets.
Nevertheless, the Queens were not very effective upfront; England-based shooter Joyce Mvula was not in her best form she missed a number of scoring opportunities while the ball distribution area was repeatedly caught off guard by the fast-paced Ugandans.
The Queens went to Uganda with a depleted squad after seven key players failed to make the trip for different reasons. Australia-based shooter Mwawi Kumwenda, centre Takondwa Lwazi alongside defenders Carol Mtukule-Ngwira, Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango, Towera Vinkhumbo and Laureen Ngwira did not honour their call-ups while Sindi Simtowe-Msowoya had some personal commitments.
“Most of our players are new; it is hard for them to quickly adapt to the bigger stage. They are trying to cope but it is not easy,” stated Queens’ assistant coach Samuel Kanyenda through WhatsApp yesterday. n