HIGH FYLER: Acacia Small (centre) was a dominant force in the Gems’ win over Grenada. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe)
THE Bajan Gems had to overcome a wet overcast morning, a stuttering start and a 6’ 5” shooting giantess from Grenada to defeat the Spice Isle 31-21 in their penultimate game of the Jean Pierre Under-16 Netball Tournament at the Vigie Multi-Sports Complex, Castries, Wednesday morning.
With rain delaying the start of the scheduled 7:30 encounter for almost 40 minutes, the Gems began with Dalia Knight at goal shooter, Chiara Chase at goal attack, Teneile Chapman-Goodluck and Acacia Small in the defence circle, Shonica Griffith at centre, Kimani Archer at wing attack and Julisa Jones-Smith at wing defence.
The Gems were keen to get away to a quick lead and rack up a big winning advantage since they were to play the unbeaten Jamaicans in Wednesday night’s tournament closing game.
A loss to Jamaica would have seen goal averages being used to determine the second spot since hosts St Lucia had drawn with the Gems and suffered a lone loss to Jamaica.
However, the Gems seemed to be sleepwalking as their sluggish play and shooting saw the scores being locked from one up to five before they eased to a 6-5 lead at the end of the quarter. At 3-4, Archer was replaced by Jones-Smith at wing attack and Damia Walrond came off the bench to play wing defence.
With Grenada using the tactic of firing the ball high into the circle for the imposing Kelsie Murrel-Ross to outreach her markers and pour in more goals, the Gems struggled to shut down their opponents in mid court.
Chapman-Goodluck proved ineffective as guardian of the giantess while handing up contact penalties.
The CARIFTA Games’ shot put silver medalist in the throws scored all of Grenada’s goals, hitting 21 from 27 while Celina Brown missed her two shots. Jada Smith came off the bench to lead the Gems with 18 goals from 28 shots. Chase hit 8/17 while Knight struggled with 5/13.
The Gems suffered from Knight’s easy misses with the smart backup from Chase in taking the rebounds and scoring keeping the Bajans in the contest. For the second quarter, Cherese Small replaced Chapman-Goodluck, captain Janine Forde entered at wing defence and Smith took the goal shooter bib from Knight.
Smith placed her stamp on the game, breaking the six-all tie and firing the Gems to a 13-8 lead at the end of the quarter. With Forde playing one of her better games while Acacia, in tandem with Griffith and Archer, delivering in mid court, the Gems enjoyed an uncontested run moving to 17-8 before Grenada could score again.
Doubling their opponents’ score at 20-10 and then cruising to 22-13, the Gems lost some of their shine as Grenada ended the quarter with a four-goal sprint at 17-22. The Spice Isle went into the final quarter rallying to 18-22 before the Gems scored again.
Soaking up the pressure from resurgent Grenada, the Gems maintained a slight lead with Smith hitting some long-range shots and Cherese giving the Bajan supporters something more to celebrate as she made the Gems’ first and sole interception of a high ball tossed into the circle for Murrel-Ross.
That set the tone for an impressive finish with the Gems scoring five straight points while denying Grenada.
Earlier, Jamaica scored their fifth win of the tournament, destroying Trinidad and Tobago 38-7 while Dominica defeated St Vincent and The Grenadines 20-14. (KB)