The Botswana senior netball team’s campaign to qualify for the Sidney 2015 Netball World Cup got off to a resounding start as the local girls edged off Zimbabwe 41-38.
In a drama filled opening game that had hearts racing, the locals held on against a very late Zimbabwe onslaught to take their first step to Sidney.
Against Zimbabwe on the opening match of the Regional Africa Qualifiers, the local girls were off to a good start taking, hitting a quick three point lead at the start of the game before Zimbabwe registered their first point.
The Botswana girls dominated the opening exchanges of the game, with their captain and Goal Attacker Portia Rasekhumba a constant menace as she scored most of the country’s points. Botswana dominated most of the early exchanges and should have opened a sizeable points gap at the end of the first quarter, only to be let down by wasteful finishing, more especially from their youthful Goal Shooter Hildah Binang.
The youngster had a hard time against the towering and physically imposing Zimbabwean Goal Keeper Patience Chinhoyi.
Zimbabwe on the other hand pushed hard towards the end of the first quarter as mistakes crept into the Botswana game to ensure they were only 5 points adrift of the hosts at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was a tit for tat affair between the two teams with Zimbabwe having a slightly upper hand as they closed the gap on Botswana.
While Botswana at one point threatened to run with the game, increasing their points lead to seven, the Zimbabweans had none of it as they fought back to ensure they were just two points adrift of Botswana when the match went to recess.
Buoyed by their very athletic captain Perpetual Siyachite in Centre Court, the Zimbabweans relentlessly pressed and hustled for the ball to put Botswana on the back foot. The Zimbabweans’ high tempo game paid dividends as they won the second quarter 9-6, meaning Botswana went to recess leading the game 18 -16.
Perhaps having realized they could not win a physical battle against the impressive Chinhoyi at the back of the Zimbabwean defense, Botswana substituted their struggling Goal Shooter Binang for the more agile Tumisang Bagidi.
The swap helped as Botswana managed to hold off Zimbabwe for most of the third quarter, winning it 12-11 as they ended the quarter three points ahead at 30 -27. The tit-for-tat affair continued in the fourth and final quarter as the two teams cancelled each other out.
Things however nearly got messy for Botswana midway through the fourth quarter as Zimbabwe scored three successive points to level the game at 36 points each.
The resurgence was enough to silence the largely partisan home crowd as jitters crept into the Botswana team.
However, the local girls somehow managed to keep their cool in spite of the onslaught and managed to once again extend their lead to three points.
The local girls would then hold on to their three point lead advantage, eventually seeing out the game 41-38 with Rasekhumba hitting one point at the dearth to ensure Botswana’s bright start to the games.
Meanwhile, Botswana, who played their second game of the qualifiers against Namibia yesterday, continue their quest tomorrow (Wednesday), when they come face to face with Uganda in a game expected to be their biggest test of the qualifiers. The game against The Cranes of Uganda will start at 1115 hrs in the morning.