They came so close last year but fell short. However, this time around Springer Memorial girls went all the way to capture the National Sports Council’s Wanda Agard Belgrave Basketball Championship, defeating Combermere 46-43 in the final this evening.
Former champions Queen’s College denied the girls from Government Hill last year but a much fitter looking Springer side with the likes of Rene Burke who was named the final’s Most Valuable Player, recovered from third and fourth quarter deficits to achieve a thrilling victory at the Barbados Community College. The score after the first three quarters was 10-16, 20-21 and 37-34.
Despite the title slipping from Combermere’s grasp the girls from Waterford had something to shout about when shooting guard Latifah Wood ended with a top score of 25 points and was named the season’s Most Valuable Player. Sheniqua Thomas contributed 13 overall in the game and used her netball skills to make an impact with the execution of some great passes. Better known on the netball circuit Thomas became one of the youngest players to play at the senior level for Barbados.
Those two did well in the first two quarters of the game especially Wood with 12 in the opening quarter. She signalled her intentions early with a lovely lay-up and Combermere went into the second quarter with a six-point advantage. But Springer came roaring back on the strength of play from Burke who ended with 12 points, Winmalecia Bowen who had 15 and Tyra Holder, eight.
With the score at 21-18 the trio did well to cut the deficit down by one point when Winmarie Bowen found the nets for two points, just seconds before half time.
In the third quarter Wood netted two free throws at the start after being fouled by Tricia Phillips but Springer continued to trail with the scores 32-30 with just under three minutes left to play. Then Rashanna Thorne netted two to level the scores. Burke then put Springer out front by two points but Thomas who showed lots of aggression during the encounter found a two pointer that tied it up at 34-34. The crowd then began to make its presence felt with chants in support of the respective schools and Burke was the first to silence Combermere with a timely three pointer.
Springer led by three and with just under a minute left Thomas again with the ball had the perfect opportunity to bring Combermere back into it but missed the free throws gifted to her by the opposition.
It was a nail-biting moment for many in the BCC auditorium and Winmalecia with a free throw along with two from Holder took Springer Memorial on to 40. From there on Springer’s defence stepped up and boxed out Wood and Thomas while the Bowen sisters took care of business from the offensive end. That strategy went a long way towards the new champions taking the title even though their star player Burke had to sit out the last few minutes of the game due to cramps.
Coach Francis Thompson said he felt a sense of relief after coming into the final as the favourites for the past four years and not being able to win. He explained that fitness and rotation of players especially in the finals were the key factors in his team’s success.
“We put more emphasis on our preparation and the other coach Deane Squires worked extremely hard with the girls on their fitness. So a lot of credit much go to him for not just building the fitness but building an overall team moral, trusting each other and it all paid off this time. Because in the past we were depending too much on star players but we tried to make sure that everybody got involved this time,” Thompson said. She noted that even though the Bowen sisters Winmalecia and Winmarie played a critical role in the team’s success, after they reached the playoff credit had to be given to the other girls who got them to that point.