Gibraltar Netball U21 one match away from Gold after beating Isle of Man
In a dazzling display of skill and determination, Gibraltar U21 has taken a monumental step towards securing a coveted gold medal in their inaugural official competition. The young 'Campions' stormed triumphantly as they overcame one of the tournament's formidable favorites, the Isle of Man, with a resounding score of 41-28.
The Isle of Man, who had also emerged victorious in their opening match, wasted no time in opening the score, displaying a cool and composed demeanor within seconds of the whistle. But Gibraltar, in their characteristic fashion, responded with equal poise. It was the indomitable Mena, who had clinched the Player of the Match accolade just the previous day, who calmly slotted in the equalizer. The momentum shifted decisively when Truman Davies seized the opportunity, brilliantly intercepting a pass in defense. Following two missed attempts by Mena, Truman Davies stepped up to the plate, scoring not one, but two crucial goals. With just a couple of minutes played, Gibraltar was off to a flying start, taking an early two-goal lead.
It appeared as though Gibraltar might encounter a fierce battle similar to their clash with the Republic of Ireland, as the Isle of Man managed to reduce the deficit before Gibraltar stretched their lead back to two points. However, Gibraltar's impeccable defense created yet another opportunity to extend their lead, and they did so, going four points ahead with precise passing, making it 6-2.
McQuisten was a force to be reckoned with, collecting rebounds and securing additional chances to increase the tally. The confident passing and off-the-ball movement left the opposition in awe as Gibraltar extended their lead to 8-2, and then 9-2, with only half of the first quarter elapsed.
Gibraltar surged ahead, reaching a commanding 10-2 lead. Although minor handling mistakes crept in, they didn't dent Gibraltar's dominance too severely, as the pressure now mounted on the Isle of Man to mount a comeback.
Gibraltar maintained their relentless pace, stifling the Isle of Man's every move and adding more points to lead comfortably. The Isle of Man could only muster a response when Gibraltar was already in the lead at 12-3.
With swift transitions through the court, a hallmark of Gibraltar's style, and their unyielding defense asserting its authority, Gibraltar's shooters gained the confidence to perform under reduced pressure. The lead was comfortably maintained, with the Isle of Man only managing to score once, leaving the score at 13-6 at the end of the first quarter—still a considerable distance from posing a genuine threat to Gibraltar.
Any inklings that Gibraltar might ease their pace in the second quarter were swiftly dispelled as they notched their fourteenth point. The Isle of Man, however, increased their pressure and disrupted Gibraltar's progress while searching for their seventh point. They couldn't quite make it, even with a favorable center pass.
Gibraltar weaved intricate passes forward and backward, resetting their attack when needed. This precision allowed Mena to capitalize, making it 15-10 with an elegant turn under the post. The Isle of Man fought on, preventing Gibraltar from extending their lead further and instead closing the gap to 16-10. But Gibraltar's quick response, combined with another timely intercept, saw them regain an eight-point lead at 18-10.
Despite some overcooked shots, as described by commentators, Gibraltar occasionally gave away chances to expand their lead. Both sides had opportunities from end to end before the Isle of Man trimmed the deficit to six points at 18-12, with five minutes remaining in the first half. This six-point margin became a benchmark that Gibraltar was increasingly intent on safeguarding, although they still experienced fleeting moments when they stretched it to seven or even eight points.
A passing mishap handed the Isle of Man an opening to cut the deficit to five points, but Gibraltar's defensive pressure soon saw them regain possession and apply more pressure. With fifty seconds to go before halftime, Gibraltar advanced to a 21-14 lead before a remarkable shot allowed their opponents to reduce the gap to six points.
The score stood at 21-15 at halftime, and Gibraltar was now eyeing the possibility of leaving their indelible mark on the tournament, on the cusp of a title bid. Their next encounter against Switzerland, who had faltered in their first two matches, seemed like a golden opportunity to secure the championship. Meanwhile, the Isle of Man would face the Republic of Ireland the next day, potentially opening the door for Gibraltar to clinch the title.
A composed return to the court saw Gibraltar swiftly extend their lead to eight points, reaching 23-15 almost immediately upon the restart. Regaining control in defense and stretching their opponents, they added another point to move nine ahead.
Despite pressure from the Isle of Man, Gibraltar clung to their lead, with their goalkeeper Mackienze making crucial turnovers to prevent further leakage. With nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Isle of Man finally added to their score, making it 16-14, their first points of the quarter. This was the spark Gibraltar needed, as they surged ahead to a ten-point lead at 26-16, firmly on the path to the gold medal.
The Isle of Man managed to string together a series of points, narrowing the gap to seven points at 16-19. Nevertheless, Gibraltar promptly responded, making it 27-19. Truman Davies displayed impeccable ball-handling skills, adding another point, and with Gibraltar brimming with confidence, they reached 29-19, eager to widen the gap by accelerating their tempo and pushing the Isle of Man back into their own territory.
Even with a comfortable lead, players such as Hernandez and Hartman continued to exert themselves in the middle of the court, engaging in a relentless contest for possession against the Isle of Man's evolving tactics. The Gibraltar duo, combined with a robust defensive performance and sharpshooting, propelled Gibraltar to a 32-20 lead, their largest advantage yet.
Davidson and McQuisten exhibited outstanding defensive prowess, frustrating the Isle of Man and helping Gibraltar maintain their commanding 32-20 lead.
With just one quarter remaining, Gibraltar needed to preserve their lead to secure their place in the gold medal bid on Sunday, when they would face Switzerland.
Gibraltar initiated the final quarter with two additional points, making it 34-20 before the Isle of Man countered with two points of their own. Protecting a lead was never better than increasing it, and the Isle of Man responded with two points, chipping away at the deficit they had faced after the third quarter. With ten minutes left to play, the score stood at 34-24, with Gibraltar still holding a ten-point lead.
Gibraltar refused to relinquish their momentum, steadily adding to their tally while maintaining their forward pace with disciplined passes and effective movements. This effort saw Gibraltar extend their lead to 36-24, just when the Isle of Man had harbored hopes of closing the gap in the final minutes.
Gibraltar showcased some remarkable moments on the court, including Truman Davies' one-handed collection as Mena's shot ricocheted around the ring. Hartman and McQuisten celebrated a pivotal block with a high-five as Gibraltar surged ahead to 38-26 with five minutes remaining on the clock, displaying unwavering unity and determination.
Although the Isle of Man outscored Gibraltar in the quarter with three minutes left, bringing the score to 39-28, their efforts fell short of significantly denting Gibraltar's lead. The crowd was treated to a thrilling spectacle in the final minutes, with both teams exhibiting resilience, determination, and creativity. Turnovers occurred on both sides, with some exquisite passing on display.
With just two minutes remaining, Gibraltar had sealed the victory, leading 40-28. Gibraltar added one final point, culminating in a triumphant scoreline of 41-28, reaffirming their dominance and leaving them one step closer to the gold medal.