The KZN Kingdom Stars proved it is not how you start that matters but how you finish as they beat the Northern Cape Diamonds 52-47 in the Brutal Fruit Netball Premier League semi-finals at the University of Pretoria’s Rembrandt Hall on Saturday. The Stars will now wait for either the Eastern Cape Aloes or the Mpumalanga Sunbirds depending on the outcome of their semi-final match. The Diamonds started like a house on fire, stamping their authority against the Stars side who were still finding their feet in the first quarter and found themselves trailing 15-9.
Trailing by six goals, the Stars found their mojo in the second quarter and were able to hold on to clinch it and take the lead. From their they used their speed and mid-court experience in Proteas star Bongi Msomi and Precious Mthembu, to maintain their slender lead throughout the last three quarters. Stars’ coach Marchelle Maroun admitted her side was exposed on attack during the first quarter and that forced her to switch Proteas player Bongi Msomi from centre to wing attack.
That worked in their favour as they were able to turn the game around and ultimately found the lead outscoring the Diamonds by 17 goals to 8 to end the quarter leading 26 to 23. The Diamonds will rue that quarter in particular as the next two quarters they matched the Durban-based team point for point. Even, their shooting averages were like for like with the Stars scoring 52 of their 71 attempts (73%) with the Diamonds mustered 47 goals from their 66 attempts for a 71% average.
Maroun says: ‘We started a bit shaky. We made a few changes on attack because we were not strong enough. We brought in Bongi and the game changed for the better. Bongi is very good on attack. We had to really be strong on attack and I’m glad it worked out. We have improved a lot and the fighting spirit was also great so I’m glad we made it into the finals.’ The Diamonds, however, proved their growth in this tournament, especially with how they started the game and coach Elsje Van Der Merwe gave credit to her girls for showing their strength and potential. She said her task now with the team was to go back and plan better for next year and hopefully do even better.
She says: ‘We have to get more game time. We have to make plans for that and make sure we come back better prepared. I think the girls have grown a lot and we have more positives than negatives so we will go back and plan better. I am very happy we finished third on the log.’ Stars goal attack Nonhlanhla Shezi was their most prolific scorer netting 18 of her 21 attempts for a 86% average, while for the Diamonds goal attack Claudia Booysen netted 23 of her 31 attempts for a 74% average.
Photo by: Christiaan Kotze/SASPA