The Kingdom Stars brought the Eastern Aloes’ unbeaten run to a sudden halt just when it counted most – in the final of the second division at the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League on Saturday night. The Stars, who were beaten by the Aloes in both their league matches, turned the tables to beat the Eastern Cape team 38-35, after trailing for much of the match and will on Sunday face the Gauteng Golden Fireballs in a promotion relegation match. The team from KwaZulu-Natal started off slowly, and took 10 minutes to score their first goal.
The Aloes were 11-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter. Both sides scored nine goals in the second to take the half-time score to 20-15. Two minutes before the end of the third quarter, the Stars drew level, and then passed the Aloes, ending quarter one goal ahead.
But it was in the final quarter that the Stars really shone, while the Aloes appeared to fall apart. The Stars played at pace and the Aloes appeared to be stuck in mud, searching desperately for someone to pass to. The Aloes battled to get the ball into their circle, and when they did, the Stars defenders, Fezeka Gambushe and Michelle Segal kept intercepting and turning the ball.
It was eight minutes into the final quarter before the Aloes managed to score again, while the Stars had added eight to their tally. Protea Bongi Msomi, playing wing attack, was inspirational, and drove the ball into her circle, and the shooters kept their heads. The Aloes, on the other hand, panicked and lost the control they had shown in all their previous matches.
Stars coach Marchelle Maroun says: ‘It was composure under pressure. I was a bit worried at the start, when we took so long to score, but we know that we can come back when we’re behind – that has been one of our strengths. I am very happy – I knew we had it in us to win. And tomorrow is going to be a huge game, when we play the Golden Fireballs in the promotion/relegation match. We’re going to bring out our best in that match. I’m taking nothing for granted – they have some very good players, but I believe we can do it.’ On the other end Aloes players were reduced to tears, having beaten every team in the division in both the first and second legs. Aloes coach Ciska Kirchoff says: ‘I’m very disappointed, but we didn’t play well in the last quarter. We lost our cool and started panicking, and then we made mistakes. I think the girls put a lot of pressure on themselves. They thought they had the game won, and when they fell behind, they couldn’t cope.’
Kirchoff was, however, philosophical, saying: ‘That’s what sport is all about. Now we go home, pick ourselves up and start preparing for next year. We won’t make the same mistakes again.’
Photo credit: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA