Grief-stricken Malawi National Netball Team, the Queens, gave away a two-goal lead to draw with Uganda’s She-Cranes 44-44 to settle for Africa Netball Cup bronze at Wanderers Sports Club in Namibia Tuesday.
Malawi and Uganda tied at 14 points each, having both lost to South Africa, who retained the continental accolade with a perfect record, winning all games to accumulate 16 points.
However, the She- Cranes got silver medal courtesy of superior goal difference.
Queens were dealt a blow following the absence of goal attacker Jane Chimaliro, who lost her husband to a road accident on Monday.
Ironically, Chimaliro was named best shooter of the tournament despite missing Queens’ last game.
Seasoned shooter Sindie Simtowe-Msowoya stepped in, filling the void left by Chimaliro. She partnered goal-shooter Joyce Mvula while Bridget Kumwenda was deployed at wing attack, with Shira Dimba playing at centre court.
In defence, the trio of Towera Vinkhumbo- Nyirenda, Grace Mwafulirwa-Mhango and Carol Mtukule-Ngwira worked tirelessly to contain pressure.
Queens were in form as they wanted to avoid a repeat of Pent Series, when they lost to Uganda 59-43.
Despite the disturbing news, the Queens started brightly to lead 12-11 at the end of the first quarter.
However, Uganda returned strongly in the second quarter to lead 22- 23.
It was a see-saw affair with both sides making cautious moves and committing turnovers largely due to tense.
Martha Dambo was deployed at centre court replacing Dimba and, despite being thrown in an unfamiliar position, she was equal to the task.
Queens regained the lead at the end of the third quarter 35-32 but in the last quarter made unnecessary turnovers that cost them full points.
However, Queens coach Peace Chawinga- Kaluwa paid tribute to her charges.
“The girls played well and stuck to the plan. Of course, we had turnovers which somehow affected us,” she said.
Chawinga-Kaluwa also admitted that the team was partly affected after their teammate lost a husband.
“Today’s game was emotional because our shooter [Jane] lost a husband and it was hectic in the camp. We told the girls that even Jane would want you to win. Even Jane told her colleagues to go flat out and play for her and that is what the girls showed,” she said.
The Queens mentor was confident that Malawi would not drop on World Rankings.
“Uganda are celebrating because they have finished number two but, if you look at the rating, we will not be affected. The rating is not going to change because the goals are balancing,” she said.
Uganda coach Fred Mugerwa Tabale was relieved with the result.