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Pretoria, South Africa - Zambia’s national netball team saved their best for last despite being between by Botswana into third place at the Netball Diamond Challenge in Pretoria on Saturday.

The match was a physical encounter and closer than the 45-36 final score suggested. Botswana had beaten Zambia by a bigger margin in their round robin game on Friday (59-41) so the Zambians did their homework and came back fighting to the bitter end. Zambia had the better of the possession in the first quarter but conceded twice the number of turnovers.

Interestingly, both sides had the same number of shots on goal, but Botswana’s shooters were more accurate, taking a narrow two goal lead at the break (10-8). The second quarter saw Zambia draw level with their opponents and the two sides matched each other point for point until a couple of costly errors saw the momentum swing, once again, in Botswana’s favour with the score at 22-19 at half-time. Determined not to give up, Zambia came out defending well ,although sometimes too aggressively, and being penalised for it. The gap widened between the two teams as Botswana went into the final quarter with a 33-25 lead. The difference between them in the end was Botswana’s ability to capitalise on their turnovers.

Botswana’s coach Motlhokwa Motsumi felt goal shooter Lemogang Moganetsi deserved credit for her efforts in the match and also wing attack Beauty Letsholo who enjoyed an outstanding tournament. “We said after yesterday’s game that Zambia would come at us hard today,” said Motsumi. “So we knew we had to multiply our efforts, which we didn’t quite manage to do. “Our goal shooter played very well today and Beauty had another good game. “She was our best player throughout the tournament and overall, we have learned a lot. “We also managed to keep our world ranking (16) which was one of our goals.”

Botswana have recently acquired a technical assistant, Frances Granger, from New Zealand and Motsumi admitted that it probably gave them the edge over Zambia this time around, after they had been beaten by Zambia twice in February.

Zambian coach Charles Zulu was understandably disappointed with the loss but proud that his team did battle to the end. “It was our best performance so far in this tournament but we didn’t take our chances,” Zulu said.

“When we defended well, we made mistakes on attack and we didn’t utilise our centre passes well enough.” Zulu said many of his team members had been injured which hampered their preparations coming into the tournament but overall, he was pleased with the way the team performed and singled out goal shooter Lucy Jere. “We are grateful to South Africa for hosting this tournament and we have all benefitted from it.

“We were disappointed not to beat Botswana but I think some of our players were very good and Lucy stood out with her accuracy statistics – approximately 86 per cent overall in the tournament — second only to the Malawian shooter, Mwayi Kumwenda.” – Jenny Bernstein

The Netball Diamond Challenge. South Africa, Malawi, Botswana & Zambia compete in a round robin tournament in Pretoria 11 August – 19 August 2012.