When?Barbados win at the Caribbean Netball Association Jean Pierre Under-16 Tournament, they win big.
The team arrived home yesterday after claiming only their second title ever in the 13-year history of the tournament, which concluded on Thursday night at the Arnos Vale Courts in St Vincent, and with the lion’s share of awards.
Shonica Wharton, MVP Sheniqua Thomas, Sade Browne, Ashley Marshall, Tia Jones, Najee Moore and Vanessa Bobb were named among the top 16 players of the tournament.
Jones, who is also on the Barbados junior volleyball team, shared the Young Achievers Award for excellence in academics and sports with Khadejah Coltes of Trinidad and Tobago.
Barbados won the team shooting competition, the Top Individual Shooter in Wharton, Best Goal Average, Best Defending Team, Most Disciplined Team and Best Team Spirit.
But no prize was more important than the championship trophy, which the Bajans won for the first time since 2005, getting sweet revenge on defending champions St Lucia with a 35-26 victory in the final match on Thursday night.
Parents and well-wishers, including Barbados Netball Association secretary Nisha Cummings; senior coach Anna Shepherd; floor member Joycelyn Prescod, National Sports Council coach Monette Wharton, and Sonia Phillips, mother of team coach Julie Phillips, were there to greet the jubilant team at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
St Lucia were second, Trinidad and Tobago third for the fourth straight year and St Vincent fourth.
“It was excellent,” coach Phillips said. “For us, the standard was a bit low, but the teams in our zone, I thought for the most part they were very competitive.”
“From the first game, they said, ‘Ma’am, we are really nervous”, and I had to reassure them that this is what they have been training for the last nine months or so for.
“I told them go out there, follow the three Ds that we have been working with all season long – desire, determination and discipline,” Phillips said.
“I told them to play hard, but most of all enjoy the game. And once they enjoyed it, stuck to the things that we talked about, and executed all of the plays that we had at the practice sessions, they would be victorious at the end of the tournament,” she added.
In the final, Barbados led all quarters 12-5, 23-9, and 29-17.
Shonica Wharton came up big again with 24 goals from 30 attempts while Thomas netted 11 of her 19 shots.
Jeanique Etienne scored 12 from 15 for St Lucia and Chervelle Huggins 14 from 15.
Last year, Wharton had to be taken out in the heartbreaking last match where Barbados lost 30-31 to Trinidad and Tobago and were second overall.
Not so this year.
“Shonica was excellent. Last year she was a bit timid, but she came into her own,” Phillips said.
“It was kind of easy because we knew we could beat the teams,” she said. ““We put in a lot of hard work and did what our coaches told us to do.
“I knew I could do it. The coach told me she had confidence in me and that helped build my spirit,” the tall goal shoot said.
This is the third tournament for Thomas, who is only 13-years-old. She said the experience of knowing what to expect from the other teams and the crowd helped her this year. She was also very comfortable playing with Wharton.
Captain Browne said when they were down, their team spirit kept them up.
She noted that since it was the last year for most of them, they really wanted to bring back the championship trophy and never had any doubts once the tournament started.
Assistant coach Tracey Leacock said the team executed the plays they were taught and they wanted to win more than anything, one of the reasons why they were victorious.
“When we realized that we had won yesterday [Thursday], it was, like, we are finally there; this is where we have been trying to be for the longest time and now it has finally come home,” she said.
“It was a feeling like no other for the girls and for us who have been working so long at this. It was just pure jubilation.”