KINGSTON, Jamaica – Barbados stunned World number four Jamaica with a pulsating 43-41 victory last night, earning a 1-1 draw in the three-Test series and registering their first win over the Caribbean powerhouses in 33 years.
Playing at the National Arena, Jamaica controlled the game for the most part and led 32-31 at the start of the final quarter but fell apart in the final quarter, as 12th ranked Barbados out-scored them 12-9 to pull off a sensational result.
The opening contest last Friday finished in a 44-44 tie while Jamaica eased to a comfortable 40-34 victory in Sunday’s second game, to take a valuable 1-0 lead in the series.
Monday night Barbados were powered by goal shoot Shonica Wharton who shot 26 goals from 31 attempts while goal attack Sheniqua Thomas chipped in with 14 from 17 attempts.
For Jamaica, the experienced goal shoot Thristina Harwood led with 19 from 22 attempts with Shimona Nelson supporting with 13 from 14 and goal attack Rebekah Robinson, nine from 12.
The Sunshine Girls had a point to prove to their coach Jermaine Allison-McCracken, who criticised their performance after Sunday night’s 40-34 win, and they came out strong in the opening quarter. They quickly moved to an 11-8 lead at the end of the period. Goal shooter Harwood was very dominant for them, netting 10 of the team’s 11 goals.
The Jamaicans fought gallantly in the second period to maintain their three-goal lead, with Harwood outmuscling the Barbadian defenders, to score all of the team’s 10 goals in the period. She was well assisted by goal attack Robinson. Jamaica’s defensive unit of Shameera Sterling, Jodiann Ward and Melissa Wright also played well and they forced Barbados into a number of turnovers.
The Sunshine Girls established a six-goal lead early in the third quarter, through goal shooter Nelson, who replaced Harwood at the start of the period. Nelson scored nine of the team’s 11 goals. However, Barbados rallied to close the quarter strongly and reduced the deficit to 32-31 at the end of the period. This effort was led brilliantly by Wharton.
The fourth quarter was excitingly contested, as the Bajan Gems rallied to level the game at 35-35 with four minutes remaining in the match. Barbados then shut down the Sunshine Girls’ attackers, who seemed to panic as they made five turnovers in the final two minutes, and Barbados held their nerve to record a famous victory over hosts Jamaica. Captain Rhe-Ann Niles was outstanding in her defensive role.
In the opening game on Friday night Barbados’ offence was led by the brilliance of Latonia Blackman who scored 32 goals from 33 attempts. Thomas chipped in with 12 goals from 13 attempts. Blackman was again to the fore in the second game scoring 17 goals from 19 attempts.
After Sunday’s loss to the Jamaicans, Barbados coach Sandra Bruce-Small had stressed that the Bajan Gems had lacked discipline and moved away from their game plan of keeping the ball low against their much taller opponents.
Monday night they returned to the original script and it worked to perfection.
Allison-McCracken expressed disappointed with her team’s performance.
“Lots of little things went wrong. We need to work on our passing, keeping (the) ball, keeping it safe.”
She also spoke about the role of shooter Nelson in Monday night’s game.
“We also need to do a little bit more work in terms of how we feed into our lovely tall shooter (Nelson) when she’s there. We haven’t had the tall shooter all the time. We borrowed her from the Under-21s. We’ve been practising for the last couple of weeks, but we obviously needed more time to practise those long passes into the shooter.”
Barbados captain Niles was named Best Defender in the Test series while Thomas copped the Best Shooter award.