Sport

Battle for Netball Jamaica's Berger Elite League play-offs continue

Saturday, January 13, 2018

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With only a point separating the teams when they first met, today's reverse fixtures in Netball Jamaica's Berger Elite League promise keen competition and much excitement, moreso with a huge battle raging for play-off spots.

Best positioned among today's challengers are defending champions St Ann Orchids on nine points. They will face St Catherine Racers, with six points, in the opening game at 5:30 pm at Leila Robinson Courts. Also on six points are St James Sharpes, who will face a Clarendon Gaters team still chasing their first win, in the feature at 7:00 pm.

Four in the six-team championship will advance to the play-offs and while half the 10 preliminary matches have been completed for most, Kingston Hummingbirds have played six and St James Sharpes four.

The Hummingbirds are second on 12 points in the race led by Manchester Spurs, with a perfect 15 points from five outings.

Janet Guy's Orchids beat the Racers 41-40 in a first-round humdinger and the head coach says they have been strategising for a more comfortable win.

“We've made some adjustments in terms of our fourth quarter finish,” she highlighted. “Once we can get the three departments in tune we should be fine.

“We're all in this thing to win,” Guy continued. “We'll just have to work hard.”

National shooters Thristina Harwood and Rebekah Robinson will lead their charge, with livewire centre court player Adean Thomas, plus Vangelee Williams and Stacian Facey providing backup.

St Catherine Racers will look to counter mainly through the shooting of Tracy-Ann Francis, Kestina Sturridge and Shanice Howe, with Jodi-Ann Ward and Nardia Hanson giving support.

Christopher Smart, the Racers' head coach, is also looking to capitalise on lessons learnt from their initial matchup.

“Definitely we're looking to come out on top. We've done some introspection ... we're certainly looking to turn the tables,” Smart advised.

“We need it more than them. We're definitely looking to exploit their defence line because that's their strength,” he added.

Among the other contestants, St James Sharpes beat Clarendon Gaters 48-47 in a nail-biter when they first met.

This time, one of the Sharpes' main defenders, Kasey Evering, said they want a similar outcome.

“We're working towards winning all our remaining games,” said Evering. “The good thing about this game is we've played them before so we know what we'll be up against.

She added: “We're going to go out there and execute as best as we can and try to get a bigger margin. The aim is to win at all cost.”

Clarendon Gaters' head coach Dalton Hinds says they are aiming to improve.

“At this level consistency is the order of the day,” said Hinds. “One of the challenges is we've not been playing 60 minutes of netball. We play three quarters and then we fall down in the last quarter and that has happened in the last four matches that we played.

“Three of the games that we lost marginally we were leading up to the third quarter. We've not had any luck, but our time will come,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Spurs and St James Sharpes both won in Thursday's fixtures. Spurs beat Racers 50-42, with Anna-Kay Griffiths (25 goals from 33 tries) and Nicole Dixon (24 from 30) scoring almost equally. Giselle Allison scored the other goal with her only attempt. Tracy-Ann Francis led the Racers with 30 of 36 tries, with Shanice Howe, seven of eight and Kestina Sturridge, five from five, scoring the other goals.

Simone Forbes sank 36 of 39 goals to lead St James Sharpes, whose other goals were scored by Jodi-Ann French-Kentish. Sabrina Spence netted 40 of 46 for the Hummingbirds, whose other goals were scored by Shanice Beckford on five of nine shooting.

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