World Cup hopefuls Chenika Jones and Amanda Pinkney have made profound statements to national selectors with strong performances in Kingston Hummingbirds’ breathtaking win in the 2023 Seprod/Netball Jamaica (NJ) Elite League on Friday.
Impressive defending by Jones in goal defence and brilliant shooting by goal attack Pinkney in the dying seconds secured a thrilling 48-47 victory over St Ann Orchids in round four of the competition at the National Arena.
Jones, with numerous interceptions and blocks around the back, earned her the Water Player Of The Match award, while Pinkney, who netted an important 27 goals from 31 attempts which included vital two-pointers, earned her the Boost You Up Shooter Of The Match award for the second-consecutive game.
Jones said her aim is to make the World Cup squad and that she is willing to go the extra mile to prove that she is worthy of selection.
“They [selectors] told us that they are watching us to do the selections. So I had the plan to just come out here every game and to work hard and push through so that I can shine for them to see me,” Jones told the Jamaica Observer.
She continued: “It is a really great feeling winning the player of the game award and for winning the game also. I know that we are at the bottom of the table and I had it in mind to come out here and give of my best hoping that we could pull through and we did.
“I told my coach before the game that I am going to do what I can, I am going to get as much interceptions as I can and I am going to pull through this game, and so it feels really good to win.”
Pinkney said that there’s room for improvement and so she is working hard on her fitness to be in the best shape as possible.
“I think I did well, but a little more improvement is needed…going deeper in the tournament, I think will be good for me, in terms of my fitness. There are a lot of people who are ahead of me right now, but I am still working my way up, so hopefully I can make the team for the World Cup,” Pinkney told the Observer.
It was the Orchids who dominated early proceedings which caused the Hummingbirds defence a lot of problems as they raced to a lead of 13-8 with two minutes left into the first half. But Pinkney struck with two goals and a two-pointer to pull the Hummingbirds within one point of the Orchids at 13-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams went hard at each other in the next two quarters as little could separate them in terms of the scores. The Orchids and Hummingbirds ended the second and third quarters locked at 23-23 and 34-34, each setting up what was expected to be a titanium tussle to the final whistle.
Orchids’ Captain Rebekah Robinson came on after the break and immediately linked up some good combinations with goal-shooter Sabina Spence. The duo couldn’t stop scoring and converted nearly every opportunity they had and would open a four-point lead (44-40) inside the final three minutes of power play remaining in the game.
Jones on the interception in defence and Pinkney on the attack produced a strong rally to see out the game. Pinkney scored two two-pointers to level the score at 47-47 before scoring the final goal on the buzzer to help her team over the line.
Tracey Ann Francis scored 21 goals from 24 attempts for the Hummingbirds, while for the Orchids, Spence netted 34 goals from 43 attempts; Robinson scored seven goals from 10 attempts; and Kelsie Jonas got six goals from nine attempts.
Hummingbirds Coach Nardine Hanson said she was pleased with the performance from her team.
“It [win] means so much to us… the fact that we were at the bottom of the table and we beat the team that is at top of the table, it is a boost for us going forward. We were coming off a win last Sunday and so we were eager to win this one, especially before our next game. We needed the win as we needed to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’ve put ourselves in,” Hanson said.