Grieving Holmwood revel in Senior Netball League triumph
WITH all that they've been through these past months, Holmwood Technical certainly deserved a moment of jubilation. And what better way than this - brilliance on the court - to do it?
On the morning of September 25, tragically, history repeated itself. Four Holmwood Technical students were killed after the mini bus in which they were travelling collided with a truck along the Chudleigh main road in Manchester.
That this had happened before — on more than one occasion — made the news even more depressing. It commanded the sympathy of all Jamaicans, even prompting the belated decision to institute a bus system to transport the students to and from school. But for the school's netball team, the pain was even greater. They didn't just lose four schoolmates. Among the quartet, they lost "a family member."
Shakeria Muschett, the school's Junior League captain and a national age-group player, was one of the students who died in the crash - on the day that she was supposed to lead her troops into battle against Belfield High in a preliminary round game.
"Sadly missed," was how their coach, Carline Graham-Powell, described the loss of Shakeria in a story carried the following day in the Jamaica Observer.
But rather than throw in the towel, Graham-Powell and her team - aided by the school's guidance and counselling department - set out to honour Shakeria Muschett's memory in the best way they knew.
"It has been difficult," the coach said recently, "but we have learnt in a short time to put things on hold and do what we have to do. We know Shakeria would not want for us to be moaning too much to the point where it starts to affect our game. We are using that as some sort of motivation to win for Shakeria."
The most fitting tribute would have been for the juniors to win their first U-16 title in many years. But that wasn't to be. They were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by surprise package Herbert Morrison Technical.
There was no fear, however, that Holmwood would end the season empty-handed. Their seniors were impressive all year, and battling performances (32-31, 38-35) in the latter stages of the competition proved that the huge margins of victories (79-11, 77-10, 59-7) which dotted their campaign weren't necessarily a sign that they were playing inferior opponents. They also knew how to grind out a result — a characteristic which came in handy against Denbigh High in Monday evening's final at Clarendon Park.
Holmwood led Denbigh by as many as nine points at one stage in the first quarter, which ended 14-6 and increased to 11 inside the second stanza, but ended 21-13.
During this period of dominance, Holmwood appeared to be playing within themselves, with a tempo that resembled a training session. Denbigh were simply powerless against their superior defensive organisation and quick transitional plays.
But, perhaps, this sort of comfort triggered a sense of complacency, which saw Holmwood suffering an amazing third-quarter collapse that not only resulted in Denbigh eating into their lead but also edging ahead by two points.
Holmwood, though, never panicked.
They returned to outscore Denbigh 11-7 in the fourth quarter and set off a party-like celebration from their supporters, who by this time had merged with their Knox College counterparts, at the final whistle.
While the pain of the past months will by no means go away any time soon, this sporting milestone has certainly brought therapeutic rays of sunshine back to the Christiana-based school. "The tears are still here," Graham-Powell said, "but we knew we had to do it" - even if it meant doing it the hard way.