Team St. Lucy are $10, 500 richer and celebrating as champions of the 2015/2016 National Sports Council/Inter-parish Road Tennis Tournament.
With a combination of prayer and crisp stroke play Kerry “TC” Francis and Curtis Jones continued their giant-killing run in the tournament when they whipped St. John in the play-off on indoor courts at the Wildey Gymnasium last night.
Francis pulled off a major upset in the opening match of the A-Class championship when he came from a game down to topple favourite Julian “Michael Jackson” White 10-21, 21-17, 21-18, while Jones formalised the victory with a polished 21-18, 21-9 victory over southpaw Adrian “Dan” Skeete.
“I prayed for this win and it came true for the team. I believe in Jesus Christ and I was confident that I could beat Jackson tonight (Sunday night) . I had to win for us to win the title and we did it,” said Francis, who played with a racquet with the word Jesus painted on the face .
Although the St. Lucy players had romped into the final with a massive semifinal upset over St. Michael, when Jones defeated the island’s No.1 player Mark “Venom” Griffith twice in one night at the Netball Stadium, some pundits were not convinced that they could also get past White and Skeete and grab the big pay-cheque in the team tournament.
After a below-par first game, where White rushed to a 10-1 score and dominated with deep serves and an array of passing shots , the determined Francis seemingly found a new gear in the second game and fought back with a clever mix of attack and solid defence that unsettled White.
He squared the match and forced a decisive third game, winning the second game 21-17 as White returned a smash short on the game point.
White started the third game seeking to utilise all his experience and guile to stave off a man that had never deafeated him before. They traded points early and White sent his opponent on the carpet at 4-3 when he pushed Francis wide to his right with an inside-out forehand that the St. Lucy player was unable to touch.
Francis regained his composure and refused to go away and took leads of 7-4 , 9-6 and 19-16 that forced the island’s former No.1 player to call on his survival skills. White fought back to 18-19 amidst some testing rallies but folded to the pressure and a gutsy opponent as he hit successive points just wide of court.
In the second match that followed, Jones controlled his encounter against the left-handed Skeete and after holding a 19-16 advantage in the first game, he sealed it at 21-18 and then rushed to a 10-3 lead in the second set.
Skeete found it difficult to match the strokeplay of Jones and slipped further at 5-13 and 7-18 while also dropping several points on his own serve. The writing was on the wall for a “sow” at 19-7 and Jones duly delivered as Skeete netted the match-point at 21-9.
The new champions were presented with their trophies and big cheque by Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley who revealed that for the play-offs, which were played in A, B and Masters divisions, a total of $45,740 was awarded in cash and prizes to 12 players .
The St. John team collected $5000 for their second placing.