Hummingbirds edge Spurs in BEL thriller

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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When it got down to the wire, Kingston Hummingbirds' mental fortitude got deep, as they surged to create separation in an otherwise very tight battle to end the winning run of Manchester Spurs, in the Berger Elite League's weekend monster clash.

The Hummingbirds won an enthralling encounter 57-52, with Sabrina Spence leading the scoring with 45 goals from 50 tries, backed up by Hasana Williams with eight goals from 12 tries, and MVP Shanice Beckford, four goals from eight attempts.

Both Manchester Spurs shooters netted 26 goals apiece, Gezelle Allison from 32 tries, while Anna-Kay Griffiths needed more attempt.

For much of the game, the big two in Netball Jamaica's elite competition were very even, 16-all at the end of the first quarter and 42-all at the end of the third in Saturday's big matchup. That tightness was abbreviated by a Manchester Spurs half-time lead of 31-27.

However, Hummingbirds, the defending champions, hit a gear in the fourth and separated themselves with a nine-point advantage that proved unassailable.

“They won the game in the last quarter because we worked on the concentration, the decision-making, the coordination, and they executed this evening big time; they came up big time,” said Winston Nevers, head coach of the Hummingbirds.

In contrast, Spurs' mentality sagged at the critical juncture.

“We led going into the third quarter but unforced errors, the ability to concentrate throughout the game is affecting our team,” admitted Connie Francis, the team's head coach. “We made numerous turnovers, we stopped believing, and certain calls were really affecting the team.

“… It's something we have to learn to play through. We have to learn to play through all adversity because this is a good team, this is a team that is really vying for a championship and we do have the ability. But we've to find a way to play through difficult moments. And I thought that going into that last quarter, [we said] we were going to execute certain things, we just didn't; we were very flat,” analysed Francis.

The Spurs had gone six matches without a loss and even with their first defeat, Manchester leads the standings with 18 points from seven. Kingston Hummingbirds were recording their fifth win, having also lost once, to Spurs. The defending champions now have 15 points from six matches.

“It's an awesome feeling. We went up against them in the first round and we lost. I didn't play, so this was like a revenge match. We just went out there and did what we had to do. We had to win because we want to finish top of the table … the score is settled going into the semi-finals,” admitted Beckford, the team's captain.

For Francis, despite losing their cause is not irretrievable.

“The errors can be corrected, that's the good thing. We have to come out knowing we have to play the four quarters, we have to close out stronger so it's not that we can't, we can. And we really needed this break, to come back in January and really step up the tempo,” she said. “A loss like this, early, is good; it's a wake-up call.”

In the evening's other game, Clarendon Gaters strengthened their chances for a semi-final placing with an edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting 40-39 victory over St Catherine Racers. The Gaters have nine points and moved ahead of the Racers into fourth. St Catherine Racers have seven points.

The Gaters, known for buckling towards the end, were strong this time after trailing 8-12, 20-22, 31-33 at the end of the first to third quarters of a close and exciting match. Petal Smith, who generally plays in midcourt, once again came up trumps for Clarendon Gaters when transferred to the circle, netting 19 of 21 tries. Amanda Pinkney also shot 19 points from 23 attempts, while regular shooter Shedieky Hamilton-Barnes shot two from five.

Tracy-Ann Barnes netted 29 of 34 attempts for the Racers, whose other goals were scored by Zonasha Hinds.

“The victory means a lot because now we've moved up to the fourth position and our intention is to be in the semi-finals, so any win and moving up is good for us. We just hope that we'll continue to win so that we'll be in the top four to play the semi-finals,” said Hamilton-Barnes.

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