England stumbled to a nine goal defeat against Jamaica in Kingston last night. The Sunshine Girls now lead the best-of-three Series 1-0 following a high intensity 56-47 victory over their visitors.
The game plan from the hosts was apparent from the start of the match with pressure applied all over the court and plenty of passion and aggression in their play. In the early stages it was a very tight affair with the sides locked at 8-8 midway through the opening quarter.
A couple of chances then came England’s way to pull into a lead but misplaced feeds into the circle saw possession turned over. Jamaica were using the remarkable reach of Romelda Aiken to great effect and it took a late Jo Harten double to level the game at 13-13 as Q1 ended.
The second quarter saw Pamela Cookey introduced at GA and although the away side now had her experience to call upon, it was Jamaica who came out the stronger. A five goal streak had the home crowd on their feet, England responded with a three goal run of their own.
It was a case of the basic errors costing the visitors dear as each time England came within touching distance of their opponents, a loose pass or penalty call would hand the initiative back to Jamaica. A direct style with plenty of pace across the court was the order of the day for Jamaica and they continued to stick to their task valiantly as the second quarter drew to a close. At the interval the gap was out to six with England trailing 30-24.
Stacey Francis was introduced at WD for the third quarter with Sara Bayman switching to C. A rejuvenated England came out fighting in the second half with Harten scoring a quick double and Geva Mentor putting her body on the line to take an intercept. With Francis working incredibly hard as part of the reformed defensive unit, England were having more success in breaking up the play before it reached the grateful hands of the Jamaican shooters.
A time-out allowed everyone to take a breather with the visitors now back to within three and in control of turnover ball upon the restart, a conversion and score from centre-pass would have the Sunshine Girls lead down to one. Unfortunately, it was another case of what might have been as Cookey was called for offside following her switch to WA with Rachel Dunn back on at GA. The momentum was back with the hosts and now Jhaniele Fowler-Reid was punishing the mistakes and missed opportunities.
Heading into the final quarter, Jamaica had retaken control of the match, leading 42-34. Changes to personnel on court were made for the remaining fifteen minutes with Kadeen Corbin taking over at GS, Harten shifting to GA. Eboni Beckford-Chambers joined Ama Agbeze in the defensive circle.
England started the final quarter well with Corbin netting a wonderful finish from just inside the circle and Harten combining fabulously with her attacking unit to reduce the gap to five. However, with time running out the away team were trying to force the issue and with their eagerness came inaccuracy.
A couple of mistimed feeds allowed Jamaica to extend the lead as they calmly moved the ball through court to goal with increasing ruthlessness. The team from the Caribbean celebrated at the final whistle as they notched up a second successive victory over England but the visitors will be relishing the chance to inflict their revenge when the sides meet for game two later this evening.
England starting 7: GS – Harten, GA – Dunn, WA – S.Corbin, C – Clarke, WD – Bayman, GD – Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor