Gauteng squeaked home by a solitary score after extra time to beat defending champions Western Cape and win the 2017 SPAR National Netball Championships 47-46 in a thrilling final at Hoy Park, Durban, on Saturday.
Gauteng were four goals up after the first few minutes, but Western Cape responded with a flurry of seven unanswered goals.
The lead changed hands frequently during the match as the game swept up and down the court. At the end of the first quarter, Western Cape were 10-8 up, but Gauteng won the second quarter, which ended 19-19.
After the third quarter, Western Cape led 31-30. Both teams played their hearts out in the final quarter. At one stage, with less than four minutes to go, Gauteng had a lead of five goals, but Western Cape coach Annelie Lucas brought her star shooter, Jambaye ‘Bakie’ Zauana, back on, and Western Cape clawed their way back to level the scores on 40-40.
With the seconds ticking away, Gauteng captain Chante Louw tried to score the winning goal, but the ball rolled round the ring and dropped off the wrong side.
The game then went into extra time. The crowd got involved, cheering their favourites on, singing and dancing. After the first seven minutes of extra time, Western Cape had a 44-42 lead.
In the final seven minutes, fortunes swung both ways, with first one team, then the other getting the upper hand. With less than a minute to go, Gauteng scored to take the tally to 47-46.
Western Cape had the next centre pass and tried to level the score again, but the shot at goal missed and the Gauteng players jumped for joy.
It was a worthy final after a week of exciting netball. Gauteng were unbeaten, although they drew with North West during the round robin phase. Western Cape lost only two matches, both of them to Gauteng.
Gauteng Coach Jenny van Dyk said they had been preparing for this final since last year. ‘We trained at the hottest time of the day, and we put them under pressure. Decision-making under pressure is the key to winning big matches,’ she said.
‘When things were getting tight, I told them to settle down and make matters simple – to take the ball with both hands and to keep calm.’
Earlier, North West were crowned the Under-21 champions, beating Gauteng 44-36. It was the third year in a row that North West won the title.
Chante Louw was named Shooter of the Tournament. Rome Dreyer of North West was Best Centre Court Player, Jessica Khomo of KwaZulu-Natal the Best Defender, and Shadine van der Merwe of Western Cape Best Overall Player.
FINAL DAY RESULTS
Senior A section
Gauteng 47 Western Cape 46 (after extra time)
Full time score 40-40
Senior Section B
Western Cape 58 KwaZulu Natal 40
Under-21 Section A
North West 44 Gauteng 36
Under-21 Section B
Western Cape 50 North West 36