Former national point guard Maria Cumberbatch’s game-high 33 points piloted Preferred Insurance Brokers Pinelands to their second consecutive women’s league title against Lady Cougars last night at the Barbados Community College.
It was a night of celebrations for Pinelands as they did the double this year by lifting both the #1 Beauty Supplies and Beauty Exchange Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Women’s League trophy, as well as the knockout title which they won a few weeks ago.
To say it was a blow out would be an understatement as the defending queens coached by Ron Grant played like the champions they are in thrashing their opponents 80-58 (21-11, 41-25, 54-41) to confirm their well-earned status of local queens of basketball.
Pinelands had to charge their way from one game down to clinch the best of three series 2-1 against Cougars who got off to a stuttering start in yesterday’s decisive game and never found their rhythm to keep up with the defending queens.
Cougars had to contend with a fast, defensively efficient Pinelands team led by Cumberbatch and Tamisha Flatts that benefited from a number of fast breaks. Both ladies occupied the court for over 30 minutes and had five rebounds each. Flatts, in particular, was very impressive showing quick hands to account for nine steals, and collecting eight assists to add to her 24 points on the night. She was all fired up in the fourth and decisive stanza when she sunk four consecutive three-point shots that not only had spectators begging for more but also deflated the Cougars.
Also contributing to the score for Pinelands were Toni-Ann Johnson with nine, Kashera Corbin and Latifah Wood with six points each, and the latter adding nine rebounds to her workload on the occasion. Sade Clarke netted five points and added seven assists while Anicia Wood and Marion Johnson-Hurley added four and three points respectively to the team tally.
Pinelands’ game plan for yesterday’s all-important match-up was to ensure Cougars captain and inspiration Toni Atherley and Jennifer Joseph-Hackett did not get too much ball possession and that strategy worked as those two were kept quiet and at times forced coach Dexter Griffith to call time-out whenever the opposition kept the scoreboard ticking over for any period of time.
Cougars definitely needed small forward Gillian Martindale, who played the first two games of the series but was unable to show up for yesterday’s decider, to render assistance to Atherley and Joseph-Hackett. But that was not to be.
Atherley top scored with 20 points for her team, Joseph- Hackett had 17 and Tiffany Thorpe ten. It was a good night for Cougars’ forward Tricia Gill on the defensive end. She accounted for a whopping 18 rebounds with nine each on the offensive and defensive end. Gill was well supported by Atherley who pulled down 13 rebounds with 11 of those on defensive boards, she also had six assists. Joseph-Hackett also had 11 rebounds.
In the second quarter, Pinelands had a comfortable 16-point run (31-15) and they took advantage of the fact that Cougars’ top players Atherley and Joseph- Hackett were either unable to communicate properly or simply misread a few straightforward passes.
During the third period, Cougars failed to capitalize on the fact that Flatts was forced to leave the court with a slight knee injury and except for Cumberbatch no one else could stop Atherley or Joseph- Hackett but they failed to seize the opportunity as Pinelands went into the fourth and decisive quarter with a 13-point advantage (54-41).
Nothing changed as Pinelands continued to apply pressure and kept the momentum in their favour to keep the trophy firmly in their grip. Pinelands led by 15 points (65-50) when the fat lady began to sing as Flatts began to belt out those three-point notes and removed any possibility of a rearguard miracle for Cougars with under five minutes to play.
Speaking after the match, Cumberbatch said it felt great to be champions once again and had no doubt they would be able to pull off the victory despite losing the first game. She said after winning game two to level the series 1-1, Pinelands knew exactly what needed to be done.
Explaining the game plan, Cumberbatch said: “The game plan was to shut down Toni [Atherley] and Jennifer [Joseph- Hackett] and break away with fastbreak layups and tired them out from early. The initial plan was to get Jennifer in foul trouble but we didn’t need to do it because we had our running game and our outside shooters.”
Added to that she said Cougars depended a bit too much on Atherley and Joseph- Hackett which cost them the trophy. “They had other players that wanted to play even if they had a couple minutes on court and then come back off. If Cougars had rotated their players some more they would have had a better chance of winning, or rather they still would have lost but they would have stood a better chance at competing,” said Cumberbatch who was named the most outstanding offensive player for 2016.