Sport

Hummingbirds soar to Game One triumph

Saturday, February 03, 2018

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The Kingston Hummingbirds carved out a nine-goal (61-52) win over the Manchester Spurs in game one of the best-of-three finals of the Berger Elite League netball competition at the National Arena on Thursday night.

The victory puts them in poll position to be the first team in the history of the competition to lift the trophy twice. Led by Sabrina Spence with 40 of 44 tries, and from Shanice Beckford with 21 of 24 attempts, the Hummingbirds withstood the challenge from the determined Spurs who were led by Anna-Kay Griffiths (36 of 40) and Gezelle Allison (13 of 18).

The Hummingbirds were the first to score through Beckford who sank the first shot of the game. They quickly built up a three-goal advantage at 7-4 before Griffiths and Allison drew the game level thanks to some enterprising play in mid-court, especially from Nicole Dixon. The Spurs then took the lead which they held briefly up to 11-8 before the Birds made a run of their own, turning the contest around to lead 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.

The Birds followed through on the first quarter momentum, surging to a 20-13 lead, creating some real daylight for the first time in the match in the second quarter. But the Spurs showed why they were in the final as they clawed their way back to 20-23 midway the quarter.

The Birds then countered with yet another run of their own to lead 27-22 as the crowd got into the game with some loud cheers. The tactical awareness of Hummingbirds goalkeeper Abbeygayle Linton was key to the team clad in black and pink making that particular surge. But that was countered by a strong display in the final two minutes of the half by the Spurs, who got stuck into the opponents, going on a four-goal run, to reduce the deficit to just one at the end of 30 competitive minutes of court action.

The half-time scores read, Kingston Hummingbirds 27, Manchester Spurs 26.

The crowd would have been anticipating more of the same in the second half, but that was not to be as the Hummingbirds took the game away from the Spurs midway the third quarter.

The victors went on a critical run at about the time that Allison went off the boil for the Spurs. Dixon was switched to goal attack and Allison relegated to the bench, but the energetic play by Beckford in the shooting circle and the precision of Spence, resulted in an eight-goal gap at 45-37 to end the third quarter, as the Spurs searched for answers.

There were no answers for the Spurs, however, as not even losing their top shooter, Sabrina Spence to injury less than three minutes into the final quarter, could hamper the free-flowing, high-flying Birds.

Hasana Williams from Excelsior High took over the shooting role for the Hummingbirds, doing so seamlessly as they maintained their stranglehold on the game. The Spurs were not helped by the fact that wing attack Khadijah Williams was sent to the bench for two minutes by umpire Dave Brown. In the end the Hummingbirds cruised home by a big nine-goal margin.

Marvette Anderson was pleased with the overall performance of her team in the crucial game one.

“I think that we did well tonight. We had less turnovers than the game before (semi-finals). That (turnovers) was plaguing us all season. We were able to fix that somewhat and we came out with the victory.”

Anderson expects a response from her opponents today, but promises to be ready.

“I am sure the Manchester Spurs are gonna come back on Saturday, not wanting to go down two-nil, and we are up to the task and we will be coming to try and put away the game on Saturday.”

She was particularly pleased with the performance at the start of the third quarter.

“I think my team handled the run (from the Spurs) well and we came back and ended up leading for the rest of the game.”

For Connie Francis, her team never recovered from a poor start.

“I thought that we started really slowly. We missed our first shot and they capitalised on it and that put us back. Despite that, we knew that we were more than capable of playing better.

“For some reason we were lethargic, we weren't moving as we ought to. We made numerous turnovers, but one thing I like is that some of these turnovers, they can be fixed for the next game,” she mused, looking ahead to game two.

Already she is thinking of ways to get beyond what was a disastrous third-quarter performance.

“We just have to find a way to get over the hurdle and it's about playing one quarter at a time, because that third quarter was really a terrible quarter and we don't want to see it happen again.

“So it's about putting our heads into the game and just going out there, putting our through-court plays together, score our goals and be confident. Sometimes I thought we were hesitant in moving,” she explained.

One of the key moments in the third quarter was the sending off of Williams which saw the Spurs playing one short for two minutes.

“Having our player sent off, that didn't help us, I think that a lot of things compounded it, but most of all, I think that we threw away this game. We have to put this behind us and move forward and hope that it never happens again,” said Francis.

The Hummingbirds could become the first team to win the competition twice if they manage to win game two which will be played at the same venue tonight.

The previous winners of the competition are the Kingston Hummingbirds, the Clarendon Gaters and the St Ann Orchids.

— Dwayne Richards

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