England is just one win away from a guaranteed medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games after securing a 62-40 victory over Jamaica in Townsville.
Undaunted by today’s do-or-die clash, England led at every quarter as they suffocated Jamaica in the opening half – a stark contrast to the men’s quarter-final earlier in the day – to set up their 22-point victory and a rematch with Canada.
The winner of Friday’s semi-final will advance to the gold medal game, while the vanquished will face either Australia or New Zealand in the play-off for bronze.
“We go game-by-game,” England coach Jose Buceta said. “This was one of the goals I put up to reach the semi-finals. Now we will see whether our team is ready or not for these two games.”
In their most impressive showing of the tournament, England restricted Jamaica to just 13 points at half-time on 6/35 shooting as they defensively shut down the game. At the opposite end of the floor, Rachael Vanderwal was rolling for England as she chalked up seven first quarter points en route to a game-high 22.
The London Olympian was simply brilliant throughout the encounter as she slashed her way through the paint, while also splashing 4/6 three-point attempts. Jamaica had no answer for her as she set up a 26-13 advantage at half-time.
“Our defence really fuels our offence,” Vanderwal said. “Every game that’s where we need to be. If we’re solid on defence, we’re going to get easy transition baskets. That’s what kind of broke the game today. It’s nice to see my shot going through the hoop today. I felt really good out there, so I’m just delighted to get the team win.”
In the second half, a neat pull-up jumper from Stef Collins (four points, five rebounds and six assists) opened the scoring as Vanderwal continued to pose a threat. Chantelle Pressley (eight points and four rebounds) began to influence the game through the post as Tarita Gordon (14 points and seven rebounds) and Shenneika Smith (10 points) tried valiantly to spark any kind of offence for Jamaica.
With a 19-point cushion at three-quarter-time, England appeared to be heading for a comfortable victory but Jamaica would not be deterred. Showing composure from the line, England was able to make crucial free throws when they counted – they finished 9/12 for the match – to keep Jamaica at bay.
The team will now travel to the Gold Coast and the Athletes Village ahead of their semi-final showdown with Canada at 9:30am UK time on Friday morning.
“We faced Canada in the first round and we didn’t have a great game at all,” Vanderwal said. “So this is kind of redemption for us, we know we have a huge improvement to come into the semi-finals against them. It’s going to be a huge task.”