Connie Francis forecasts 'fair weather' in Vitality Roses series
Sunshine GirlShannika Johnsontries to collect theball under pressurefrom Trinidadand Tobago'sCrystal-AnnGeorge duringgame two ofthe three-matchSunshine Series atthe National IndoorSports Centre recently.(Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Having had two practice games to help them acclimatise and adjust to English conditions, Sunshine Girls Head Coach Connie Francis believes the forecasts of her team bettering their host in the three-match Vitality Roses Reunited Series are now looking even brighter.

The Jamaicans have hit the ground running since their arrival last Saturday, conducting a few sessions to get bloods flowing in the winter climate, while the practice games on Monday and Wednesday added impetus to their preparation for Sunday's series opener at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham will host the second and third games, scheduled for December 4 and 5.

Francis and her number four-ranked Sunshine Girls, who are making their first appearance in England since the four-team Nations Cup in January last year, defeated the host's A team 56-49 and 68-53 in both games.

Though admitting that the performance, particularly in the first game, was by no means flawless, Francis pointed to some progress being made which is seen as a step in the right direction.

“We have settled in well so far, as you know most of the players are accustomed to touring so they are very focused on the task at hand.

“I thought we looked very tired in the first game and that may have been due to jetlag, so we did some rotations to see how best we could manage the game,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.

“Our shooting continues to be very good and our defending is also good, but I was a bit concerned about how our attack in mid-court was looking. The court was very slippery, so the girls had to make the necessary adjustments for that and although we won the game, I wasn't fully satisfied with that performance,” she added.

The second game for Francis yielded a more complete performance and the fact that they did so without the services of explosive defender and Vice-Captain Shamera Sterling spoke volumes about their confidence.

Sterling and, by extension, the Sunshine Girls camp suffered a scare when the defender's knee buckled in the first practice game. However, a MRI scan has since revealed only minor bruising which augurs well for the Jamaicans ahead of the main event against their number three-ranked rivals.

“The doctor and physio are working with her, it is nothing serious and so she will resume full practice tomorrow (today),” Francis said of Sterling.

She continued: “In her absence for the second game we worked on some things, Kadie-Ann [Dehaney] came in and she connected well with Latanya [Wilson] and Shadian [Hemmings] did extremely well at wing defence, she just needs to be a bit more tighter.

“We are still a work in progress for the big game, but I believe things are looking more positive, we have been doing our video analysis of the games and talking it through with the players to perfect the kinks.”

On that note, Francis pointed out that she is expecting more improvements as the tour progresses as her team has often been known to display their best against fierce opposition.

The series, which comes after the previously planned contest between the two sides was postponed earlier this year due to the restrictions brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic, will also be the English Roses first time playing in front of their home crowd since the Nations Cup.

“Each time we play we expect improvements, we saw it playing against Trinidad and the male team, and we also saw it with the players making adjustments to the court and the climate to overcome the odds.

“So I believe we were spot on, not flawless, but the performance was more improved so much so that I was able to put in some of our training partners (Under-21 players) and give them a feel of what it is like to play against quality teams. So I am happy that things are coming together,” Francis ended.

FRANCIS...we have settled inwell so far (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
BY SHERDON COWAN Observer staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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