GOLD COAST, Australia – Powerhouses Jamaica and Caribbean neighbours Barbados both suffered heavy defeats on the final day of preliminary action at the Commonwealth Games today.
The Sunshine Girls predictably went down to World champions Australia 72-51, to suffer their first loss of the competition while Barbados were mauled 85-25 by South Africa to lose their fourth match in five outings.
Despite the defeat, Jamaica will take on England in Saturday’s semi-finals which will also see the Aussies clashing with New Zealand.
Barbados, meanwhile, will face Scotland in ninth/10th place playoff tomorrow.
Playing at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Jamaica found themselves outplayed by the quicker Australians as they fell behind 14-21 at the end of the first quarter.
And even though they kept pace with the Aussies in the second period, they trailed 29-36 at the half.
Australia moved into a higher gear on resumption, outscoring the Jamaicans 19-9, to post a decisive 55-38 lead at the start of the final quarter.
With the result virtually decided barring a miracle, Jamaica continued to rely on long balls to their shooters as their most effective means of attack, but once again found themselves outscored by the Aussies.
Goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid led for the Caribbean giants with 30 goals from 32 attempts while Romelda Aiken, who also chipped in at goal shooter, finished with 11 from 14.
Australia’s attack was spearheaded by goal shooter Caitlin Thwaites who was a perfect 22 from as many attempts while Caitlin Bassett finished with 22 from 23 attempts and goal attack Susan Pettitt, 20 from 21.
Barbados, meanwhile, were outclassed from the start by the world number five, South Africans, suffering a 20-5 crushing in the opening quarter and a similar thrashing in the second, to be down 9-44 at the half-time whistle.
There was a decent fight-back by the Barbadians in the third quarter, 11-19, but the South Africans further stretched their lead in a dominant fourth quarter where the Caribbean side again failed to crack 10 goals.
Latonia Blackman, who played principally at goal attack, scored 14 from 15 while goal shooter Nikita Payne shot 11 from 17 attempts.
South Africa got 34 from 35 from goal shooter Ine-Mari Venter with all her goals coming in the first half while her second-half replacement Sigrid Burger scored 33 from 35.
Meanwhile, on the track, Jamaica’s Aisha Praught-Leer unleashed a furious late last-lap surge to upstage the Kenyan duo of Celliphine Chespol and defending champion Purity Kirui to claim gold in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the Games today.
The 2015 World Under-18 and 2016 World Under-20 champion Chespol seemed well on her way to claiming top honours in the event but was doggedly tracked all the way by Praught who pulled away from the Kenyan at the final water jump and powered down the track to win her first and the country’s major medal in the event. The 28-year-old Praught crossed the line in 9:21.00 with the Kenyan finishing second in 9:22.61. Her compatriot Kirui, who was closing fast on Chespol, eventually claimed bronze after clocking 9:25.74.
It was Kirui who set the early pace for the race, leading after the first three laps with the rest of the field bunched up not too far behind. With only three laps to go, however, it was Chespol who decided to stretch the field when she increased the pace of the race. Praught would not be left behind, however, and closely followed her lead with Kirui falling further behind.
The two enjoyed a 30-metre on the rest of the field at the final bell, but it was clear that Chespol had begun to tire heading into the home stretch and that Praught still had plenty left in the tank.
Jamaica’s Stephenie-Ann McPherson, the 2014 400-metre champion, was dethroned by Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, the 2010 champion, as today’s action on the track concluded at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Meantime, McPherson’s teammate Anastasia Le-Roy ran a personal best to finish among the medals in a thrilling final.
McPherson, running in lane five, took off as if shot from a gun as she sought to retain her title won in Glasgow four years ago. So fast was her start that by the time they got to the 200m mark, she was on the shoulder of Montsho in lane six.
Le-Roy, meantime, in lane 3, ran off the pace and was several metres back by the time the runners approached the top of the home stretch.
However, it was Kenya’s Maximila Imali, running in lane 4, who hit the home stretch first but was being challenged by McPherson with Montsho not far behind. But as the two battled and burned each other out, Montsho, who had been patient, surged to the front even as McPherson and Imali began to struggle with 50 metres to run.
LeRoy made her move late and rushed past her compatriot and the Kenyan but ran out of real estate in her bid to catch the Botswanan.
Montsho crossed the line in 50.15s, a season’s best to reclaim the crown she first won in Delhi eight years ago. LeRoy clocked 50.57 to claim the silver medal while a spent McPherson managed to hold on to take the bronze in 50.93s.
The two medals mean Jamaica’s tally now climbs to 12 medals – three gold, five silver and four bronze medals. (CMC)