Their 77-47 victory over the Zim Gems means they will participate in the fifth-place play-off against the winners of the all-African clash between Malawi and Uganda later today.
Not since 1995 have Jamaica missed out on a semi-final place, and they will be keen to claim fifth to avoid matching their previous worst previous in the tournament – sixth in 1967.
Zimbabwe, who have delighted their appreciative fans with several victories in their maiden Netball World Cup, will rightly be proud to be contesting the seventh place play-off match.
Jamaica fielded a strong starting line-up, albeit electing to begin with Shamera Sterling on the bench. Both sides began nervously, overthrowing passes in the first minute, however Jhaniele Fowler opened the scoring with a brace.
Zimbabwe soon closed, and were able to stay on Jamaica’s tail as both attacks looked in good form. Ursula Ndlovu was unlucky to just run out of court after making a good run into space, and Fowler took advantage of the turnover in possession to push the score out to 14-8.
Pauline Jani was doing her level best to keep Zimbabwe in touch at the other end, and in a role reversal in the Jamaican shooting circle, Shanice Beckford then took the spotlight away from Fowler as her three consecutive goals pushed the lead out further, with Jamaica 23-15 ahead after the first quarter.
The second quarter started with a rarity, as Romelda Aiken fumbled a pass. Jamaica shook this off though, and continued to move the ball with fluency, extending the lead to 18.
A feature of this phase of play was Aiken’s ability to get to the rebounds first after the unlucky Beckford saw shots bounce out. Even when Aiken was wayward, Zimbabwean passes weren’t finding their target, and Jamaica closed out the half well on top – 47-24 ahead.
Jamaica continued to build in the second half, however Ndlovu did remarkably well to keep the ball in play and cut the score to 54-29.
The deficit was down still further after the Sunshine Girls overthrew the ball, and the joyous Zimbabwe fans’ continuous encouragement from the stands inspired their team to bring the score back to 57-36.
Sterling – by now on as a substitute – was being characteristically effective in defence, however Zimbabwean passes were now sticking and shots were finding their target. Aiken’s off-balance miss as the quarter ended meant that – much to the delight of their fans – Zimbabwe won the quarter 14-12.
Jamaica still held a commanding lead though, and they moved 64-40 ahead early in the fourth. A spectacularly dominant quarter followed, as Aiken and Rebekah Robinson scored 18 between them to put a gloss on the final scoreline: 77-47.
Despite the result though, Zimbabwe were as joyous in defeat as they have previously been in victory, and their dance off court – during which they were joined by several Jamaican players – captured even more hearts for a nation who have truly embraced their first World Cup.
Zimbabwe’s Felisitus Kwangwa said:
“I’m really impressed with our performance today. Against the world number two it’s quite difficult, and as you can see, against them, our team is vertically challenged! But I’m really impressed.”
Jamaica’s Stacian Facey said:
“It was a very physical game. We knew that Zimbabwe would be physical but we came prepared for that. Our team is filled with speed, and I think that we matched up quite well with them.”