The 2014 Commonwealth Games has been a campaign of high and lows but this morning England suffered a devastating and final knock-out blow. Another thrilling contest, the third in as many matches against the top nations, ended in dejection for the team in red as the Sunshine Girls from Jamaica ended with a flourish to take a 52-48 win and with it, the bronze medal.
The game was evenly contested throughout with the lead changing hands on several occasions. The passion and intensity was admirable from everyone who took to the court and with fifteen minutes remaining the sides couldn’t be separated.
In a contest where momentum was key, it was down to who would be able to handle the pressure and grasp the initiative in the final quarter. Unfortunately, for a huge number of very boisterous England fans at the SSE Hydro, it was Jamaica who won the mid-court battle in the closing stages to see out a famous victory.
A quick turnover on the opening Jamaican centre allowed Jo Harten and Kadeen Corbin to start the scoring. Confident holding of the circle saw the ball float into Harten who netted again with composure. A few loose balls and a Vangelee Williams steal allowed the Sunshine Girls to turn an England centre pass and take a four goal lead seven minutes into the match.
An England time-out was followed by a stunning intercept by Serena Guthrie and then again by Sara Bayman, which Harten converted after teasing the net with a few near misses. Consistent and dynamic attacking movement off the ball from Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Jade Clarke and Bayman enabled England to take the lead, finishing the quarter 13-11 ahead.
Sasha Corbin replaced Clarke at WA for the beginning of the second quarter. The towering height of Romelda Aiken in the Jamaican attacking circle proved tough for Geva Mentor and Beckford-Chambers as the Sunshine girls took the lead after three minutes. The scoring was going with centre pass, the defence working tirelessly for a turnover.
At 21-21, Jamaica gained possession as Corbin struggled to find the free players in attack, however resilient Beckford-Chambers pressure led to a Mentor intercept. Excellent defensive work through court attempted to break the Sunshine Girls’ passage of play, although they managed to find the space and take a two goal lead with a few minutes left on the clock in the first half.
A final minute Guthrie turnover flowed through court with a great long ball link between the Corbin sisters meant that the score going into the second half was 24-25 Jamaica.
The second half saw Stacey Frances take to the court as GD. A quick Jamaican turnover and a misplaced Mentor rebound meant that within the first three minutes, the Sunshine Girls had increased their lead to four. After two minutes, Bayman found the space into Corbin which opened the England scoring, to be quickly followed by a Harten goal.
England got on a run following a magnificent Mentor intercept and levelled the scoring. Despite Aiken’s shooting being rattled by the defensive combination ten minutes into the second half, the score was locked at 33-33.
The goals continued to go with centre pass as Bayman worked the ball to the circle edge, which was finished with dynamic circle rotations from Harten and Corbin. Mentor and Francis fought hard for Jamaican rebounds and this was finally rewarded, however too late for England to capitalise, meaning that the score at the end of Q3 remained level at 37-37.
There was everything to play for in the final quarter. England took the early lead converting their centre with two Harten shots slipping through the net. Jamaica responded with a turnover and tied the game at 40-40. As pressure mounted in both circles, Mentor made a world-class tip. The chance quickly fell away as the ball was rushed through court resulting in a steal by the Sunshine Girls. Going into the final eight minutes, England now trailed by two.
The crowd in the Hydro roared the players in red on, Corbin and Harten closing the gap to one. The defence worked tirelessly for the intercept in a desperate attempt to create a chance to level the scores.
Another Jamaican turnover in the final two minutes meant they increased their lead to three and were starting to believe they could see out the game. England continued to fight to the final whistle but excellent play by the Sunshine Girls would mean they were not able to close the gap.
A disappointing end to a tournament which has had so much to take pride from. Never before has an England team come so close to toppling one of the big two nations in a major tournament. Perhaps today’s match was just a game too far. The players do not have a truly deserved medal to show for their efforts but they can certainly leave Glasgow with their heads firmly held high.
England starting 7: GS - Harten, GA – K.Corbin, WA - Clarke, C - Bayman, WD - Guthrie, GD - Beckford-Chambers, GK – Mentor
Jamaica starting 7: GS – Aiken, GA – Beckford, WA – K.Williams, C – Thompson, WD – V.Williams, GD – Kelly, GK – Pinnock