The Australian Diamonds have celebrated Paige Hadley’s international debut with an 83-34 victory over the Malawi Queens at the WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, on Wednesday night.
The 21-year-old became Australia’s 161st international representative after coming on at half-time as the Diamonds kept their winning streak intact, which now extend to five games, with one game to come on Saturday.
The NSW native, who had plenty of family and friends in attendance, becomes Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander’s third international debutant this year following the maiden appearances of Kimberley Ravaillion and April Letton in England.
The fifth ranked Malawians caused early headaches for Australia, who had difficulty in adapting to the visitors unique style, as the hosts couldn’t find their rhythm in transition during the first quarter.
A structure-less and congested midcourt disrupted Australia in and around the circle edge as the hosts took a narrow 13-11 lead into quarter-time despite coming into the game as favourites, having never lost to Malawi in three previous meetings.
The Australians began to find their feet in the second quarter as speed and flow returned to the Diamonds’ attack while defensive pressure starved the African visitors of options under the post.
Quick releases into shooter Caitlin Bassett, who enjoyed a 22cm height advantage over Malawi’s goal keeper Towera Vinkhumbo, began to pay dividends as the Australians extended their advantage to a 33-19 lead at half-time.
Alexander turned to the bench at the main break to make wholesale changes on court, introducing Hadley at wing attack, while Caitlin Thwaites and Erin Bell took over the shooting responsibilities from Bassett and Natalie Medhurst.
Rebecca Bulley, playing in front of a home crowd, returned to goal defence for the first time since the opening game of the Constellation Cup while Demelza McCloud recorded her first appearance in the green and gold since 2005.
The changes were seamless as the new look side picked up where their teammates had left off before the break, controlling in attack and dictating in defence.
Thwaites, who finished the game with 41 goals from 42 attempts, was flawless in the third term while the Diamonds limited the Queens to just 15 goals for the second half.
The Diamonds head to the Gold Coast for Saturday’s last international outing ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games having recorded their largest ever win and highest score against the African nation.
Australia’s Renae Hallinan was named player of the match.
|Australian Diamonds||Malawi Queens|
|GS||Caitlin Bassett||Mwayi Kumwenda|
|GA||Natalie Medhurst||Jane Chimalira|
|WA||Kimberlee Green||Bridget Kumwenda|
|C||Madison Browne||Takondwa Lwazi|
|WD||Renae Hallinan||Joana Kachilika|
|GD||Sharni Layton||Caroline Mtukele|
|GK||Laura Geitz||Towera Vinkhumbo|
|Australian Diamonds (13) v Malawi Queens (11)|
|Australia||Bassett 8/9 (89%)||Medhurst 5/6 (83%)|
|Malawi||Kumwenda 6/7 (86%)||Chimalira 5/6 (83%)|
|Australian Diamonds (33) v Malawi Queens (19)|
|Australia||Bassett 16/17 (94%)||Medhurst 4/4 (100%)|
|Malawi||Kumwenda 4/6 (67%)||Chimalira 4/5 (80%)|
|Australian Diamonds (58) v Malawi Queens (24)|
|Australia||Thwaites 22/22 (100%)||Bell 3/4 (75%)|
|Malawi||Mvula 4/5 (80%)||Kumwenda 1/2 (50%)|
|Australian Diamonds (83) v Malawi Queens (34)|
|Australia||Thwaites 19/20 (95%)||Bell 6/8 (75%)|
|Malawi||Mvula 4/6 (67%)||Chimalira 6/7 (86%)|
|Caitlin Thwaites 41/42 (98%)||Jane Chimalira 15/18 (83%)|
|Caitlin Bassett 24/26 (92%)||Mwayi Kumwenda 11/15 (73%)|
|Natalie Medhurst 9/10 (90%)||Joyce Mvula 8/11 (73%)|
|Erin Bell 9/12 (75%)|