Operation Botswana has started.
Barbados’ Under-21 netball team got their preparation campaign for the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) Youth World Cup in that landlocked Southern Africa nation in July, off to a positive start at the Netball Stadium last night.
The young netballers came out tops in the qualifiers for the prestigious AFNA tournament in St Maarten last year and over the next few weeks will be facing stiff competition against senior teams as part of their intense preparation.
Playing their first match of the 2017 Barbados Netball Association’s Division One League, the national team coached by Sandra Bruce-Small came up against strong opponents in former queens C.O Williams Rangers and the contest ended in a 28-28 draw.
The Under-21 Gems had their opponents three goals down in the opening quarter but were unable able to keep that momentum flowing as Rangers captained by national player Rhe-Ann Niles moved from being somewhat easygoing initially to an advantageous position in the second and third quarters. The score line after three periods was 5-8, 16-14, 19-17.
Goal-shooter Shonica Wharton and goal-attack Sheniqua Thomas, two of the most experienced players for the Under-21 outfit, featured on court in the first two quarters, as they both netted seven goals each from a combined total of 21 attempts. Romancia Odwin wore the goal-shooter’s bib and scored eight points while Zakiya Kirton as goal-attack contributed six after replacing Wharton and Thomas in the third quarter.
The going proved tough for the Under-21s as they failed to score a single point eight minutes into the second quarter when Rangers looked more decisive as their center Tamisha Rock-Yaw kept control of play to ensure Rangers had ball possession. Goal-shoot Shaquilla Davis finished with 13 goals from 25 attempts and goal-attacks Skakeena Rock had 12 from 16 and Crystal Cadogan three from ten attempts.
Both teams had their moments of ups and downs, especially the Under-21s’ goalkeeper Shonte Seale. She allowed Rangers’ shooters too much room initially to get easy attempts but she was more forceful in the fourth and decisive period when her team needed her most to be. The combination of Odwin and Kirton inside the semi-circle worked in the Under-21s’ favour with some lovely passing between the two that escaped Rangers’ goalkeeper Niles. Their efforts managed to tie the score at 21-21 and then take the lead at 25-22. But the ever persistent Rangers side kept steady heads to once again take control and level the scores at 28-28 with just a couple seconds left to spare when Rangers had possession but were unable to score the winner before the time keeper reached umpire Makeba Clarke.
In other action on the night Rangers were on the losing end in Division Three going down 31-27 (9-8, 14-16, 20-24) to Spooners Hill Firebirds. Scoring for Firebirds were goal-attack Kerry Brathwaite with 15 goals from 23 attempts and goal-shooters Natalie Bailey nine from 14 and Debra Kellman seven from her eight attempts. Rangers’ goal-shooter Heather Belle shot 16 goals from 27 attempts, and there ten goals and one from goal-attacks Linda Bourne and Cheryl Steele respectively.
Meanwhile in Division Four, Pine Hill St Barnabas came out on top 30-34 (9-5, 14-12, 22-17) against Bryden Stokes. Romancia Odwin had a busy night as she ended with a top score of 21 from 33 attempts as goal-shoot while goal-attack Trishan Deane had a perfect score of nine from nine. Scoring for Bryden Stokes was goal-shoot Adonna Griffith with15 from 17 and goal-attacks Beverley Grant six from nine and Michelle Holder with a perfect score of three from three attempts.
In a Division Four match, Phoenix defeated WOW Shottas 33-13 (11-3, 18-7, 26-10) thanks to goal-shooter Sherry Toppin’s 26 goals from 33 attempts and goal-attacks Dianne Harper and Marion Johnson Hurley netting three and four goals respectively. Sandra Maynard tried her best for Shottas with a total of nine goals from 17 attempts and goal-attacks Shonta Clarke and Crystal Phillips who contributed three and one point respectively.
There were a few Division Five matches played and Pine Hill St Barnabas trounced Burger King Clapham Blitz 29-13, A.S. Auto Stop Rapid Response got the better of UWI Signia Blackbirds 24-19 and Guardian Group Pride of Villa edged Bico Delight 21-19.