Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Silver Ferns sweep past improved Jamaica

Silver Ferns 61 Jamaica 38
Adean Thomas of Jamaica and Laura Langman of the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty
Adean Thomas of Jamaica and Laura Langman of the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty

At the age of just 18 Maia Wilson has joined the ranks of dual international after making her debut for the Silver Ferns in tonight's second test win over Jamaica.

The teenage shooting star made her appearance in the final four minutes of what was at times a brutal clash to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Belinda Colling and Donna Wilkins in representing New Zealand in both netball and basketball.

The 1.92m Wilson was first selected in the Tall Ferns as a 16-year-old, but turned down a College basketball scholarship to focus on her netball career, instead taking up a contract with the Central Pulse.

Wilson always had ambitions of becoming a dual international, but didn't expect her selection in the Silver Ferns to come so soon. The young star was the clear bolter in the Southby's first test line-up named last month and has since bided her time on the bench waiting for her chance to step out into the international arena.

At one stage it was looking as though Wilson, who was the only uncapped player in the Ferns line-up heading into tonight's match, may not have had the opportunity to get on at all, with the Jamaicans proving much more competitive than they were in Sunday's 38-goal drubbing.

Leading by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, the Ferns began to pull away in the final 10 minutes, allowing Janine Southby the opportunity to blood her young shooter in more relaxed circumstances. Wilson did not look overawed by the occasion, sinking three of her four shots at goal in her short cameo to help the Ferns to a 61-38 win.

The victory secured the Ferns the Taini Jamison series heading into the third and final test in Rotorua on Saturday.

Jamaican coach Minneth Reynolds said pre-match she was hoping for a huge improvement from her side defensively in test two after the Silver Ferns took 40 more shots at goal than their opposition in Sunday's opener.

Her side clearly took that message on board, showing a much stronger resolve on defence. Wing defence Vangelee Williams, one of the more experienced members of an otherwise young line-up, set the tone from the outset when she came up with an intercept on the Ferns opening centre pass.

Perhaps caught off guard by the Sunshine Girls' increased physicality on defence, the Ferns ended up playing catch-up for most of the opening spell, only taking the lead in the final five minutes as they eked out a 14-9 lead at the first break.

The early wobbles from the homeside could also be attributed to a new midcourt combination, as Southby opted to start Shannon Francois at centre, pushing Laura Langman back to wing defence.

The last time she started with this line-up was the second Quad Series test against South Africa, in which the Ferns produced a disastrous 14-16 start. On that ocassion Southby immediately reverted to her strongest midcourt combination of Langman at centre, and Kayla Cullen at wing defence for the second quarter.

This time, she opted to leave Francois and co out in the middle to work through it.
Southby was rewarded for her faith, with Rasmussen and Francois finding better placement with their passes into the circle as they got their heads around the range of long-limbed defenders Malysha Kelly and Shamera Sterling.

Finding better rhythm on attack, the New Zealand side charged out to a 29-16 lead at halftime.

The momentum was expected to stay with the Ferns in the second half as Southby introduced her top line-up at the break, with Ameliaranne Ekenasio relieving Te Paea Selby-Rickit of the goal attack bib, while Cullen took over at wing defence allowing Langman to return to her more familiar role at centre.

But it was instead the Jamaicans that got the jump after the break, as a change of their own in the shooting circle proved the spark for a 4-0 start to the third quarter. The confident start saw the Jamaicans produce their best quarter of the series, as they tied the period 13-all to trail 42-29 at the final change of ends.

Rattled by the Jamaicans fightback, the Ferns struck a further blow early in the fourth quarter when Ekenasio was forced from the court after landing heavily on her shoulder.

That saw Selby-Rickit return to the court. This time, the Ferns adjusted much better to the changes, producing a 19-9 final quarter flourish against the tiring Jamaicans.

- NZ Herald

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