JAMAICA Under-21 netballers fought bravely but were defeated 53-44 by New Zealand in the semi-final at the World Youth Netball Championship and will have to battle England for a bronze medal tomorrow.
Jamaica rallied from a 12-point half-time deficit to lead 38-37 at the end of the third quarter, but had a dismal fourth quarter and were outscored 16-6.
In the other semi-final, defending champion Australia turned back England 67-33 to set up another mouth-watering final against New Zealand, also tomorrow.
The young Sunshine Girls, who finished third at the last championship two years ago, started briskly against the Silver Ferns taking an early lead, but were trailing 13-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Jamaica, plagued by injuries throughout the tournament, suffered a crucial blow in the second quarter when star shooter Shantel Slater landed badly and collapsed to the floor in agony.
New Zealand went on to outscore Jamaica 16-6 and opened up a 12-point lead going into the break. But the determined Sunshine Girls showed a lot of courage, and in a remarkable turnaround, outscored New Zealand 19-6 to hold a one-point lead after the end of the third quarter, leading 38-37.
In a match which was streamed live, Jamaica lost possession right at the beginning of the fourth quarter and New Zealand never looked back, racing away to 16-6 in the crucial fourth quarter on their way to a nine-point 53-44 win.
Jamaica captain Vangelee Williams was clearly disappointed, but promised to bounce back for the bronze medal match.
"Yes, we are very disappointed because we didn't win and the fact that we tried our hardest but it came out bad at the end," said the defender.
Jamaica's head coach Oberon Pitterson-Nattie was impressed with her players' commitment to the game.
"I'm extremely proud; I could kiss all of them. They played like it was their last. They fought to the finish and that's what I'm happy for," said Pitterson-Nattie.
In the other games yesterday for the minor positions, Wales beat Trinidad and Tobago 61-54; South Africa dismissed Barbados 59-20; host Scotland beat Samoa 50-35 and Fiji turned back Namibia 67-49.