IT was not an entirely surprising result, but they still had to get the job done, and the Silver Ferns took care of the Sunshine Girls in the first Taini Jamison Trophy test last night. Playing in Auckland, New Zealand won all four quarters by no less than four goals, and was able to tame a Jamaican outfit that was missing the majority of its usual starting seven squad. To the Sunshine Girls’ credit, they fought it out despite having a raft of issues leading up to the match, but could not contain the Silver Ferns, going down by 25 goals, 70-45.
In the past week, the Jamaicans had passport issues which delayed and then reduced the series, with the problems threatening to cancel it entirely. Then, after half the squad arrived on Monday, the remaining numbers who were due on Tuesday did not arrive, and the Sunshine Girls were forced to make do. They brought in former Queensland Firebirds shooter Romelda Aiken, and even 54-year-old coach Connie Francis suited up if she needed to call upon herself, but ended up sticking with the same starting seven.
On court, the Silver Ferns were able to put the disruptions behind them and still stick to the task at hand despite playing a largely inexperienced opposition. Giving 10 of their 12 squad members a run in the first test, Silver Ferns fans would have enjoyed seeing captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and young gun Maddy Gordon back out on court, while rising star Elle Temu made her debut in the black dress. As Ekenasio shot seven goals at 100 per cent efficiency and had nine goal assists in three quarters, she supported young gun Grace Nweke (59 goals from 63 attempts and four rebounds).
New Zealand raced out of the blocks to pile on 21 goals to 10 in the first term to open up an 11-goal lead. From there, the Jamaicans did manage to settle and reduce the damage, but without Jhaniele Fowler piling on her certain goals and Shamera Sterling intercepting everything up the other end. The Silver Ferns would go on to win the next three quarters by five, five and four goals respectively.
Along with Nweke and Ekenasio getting the job done up front, Whitney Souness played a full game through the midcourt and had 16 goal assists, five deflections and a gain, while Gordon produced a massive 27 goal assists from one intercept and one gain. In defence, Temu gained valuable experience from a full game with three deflections, two gains and two intercepts, while Kelly Jury picked up the three gains, two deflections, one rebound and intercept.
The Jamaicans only had the seven players running out the full game with captain Shimona Nelson shooting 36 goals from 41 attempts, while Gezelle Allison helped out with nine from 14. In the midcourt Adean Thomas recorded a team-high 15 goal assists, while Latanya Wilson (six deflections, four gains, two intercepts and a rebound) tried hard throughout the match in the defensive goal circle.
With the first test done and dusted, all eyes turn to the second and final test tonight from 7pm local time at Pulman Arena.