It was another classy performance as Barbados won their fourth straight game in the ongoing 2018 AFNA World Cup Qualifiers being played at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Wildey, St Michael last night.
After a keenly contested opening half, Barbados’ head coach Sandra Bruce-Small was forced to make decisive changes that saw the Bajan Gems surge ahead and clinch a convincing 66-31 victory over St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Barbados led 17-11 and 28-22 at half-time as St Vincent showed some competitiveness. But the ladies in yellow managed to swing the scoreline more in their favour to lead 43-27 when the penultimate quarter concluded.
With things not going according to plan in the first half, the Bajan Gems coaching staff sought to rectify that in the decisive period by bringing on goal-shooter Shonica Wharton to replace national captain Latonia Blackman who had scored 14 goals from 17 attempts, and Brianna Holder who took over at goal-attack from Nikita Piggott-Payne who had netted 14 goals off 15 attempts before being substituted.
And those two truly ‘upped de ting’ for Barbados with an exceptional display of shooting inside the semicircle. Wharton with a sublime scoring performance almost ended with a perfect score having registered 25 goals off 27 attempts. Holder bagged 13 off 19 attempts, as both she and Wharton did well to produce incredible shots past St. Vincent goalkeeper Vasha Adams.
Senior player Shonette Azore- Bruce with at least 70 caps for Barbados was equal to the task at the goalkeeper position when she blocked the majority of attempts made by Vincentian goal-shooter Mary-Ann Frederick and goal-attack Skiddy Francis-Crick with 16 and 11 goals respectively off a combined total of 35 attempts.
The decision to bring on a more junior attack in the second half paid off for the Bajan Gems as former national Under-16 teammates Holder, goal-defence Shonte Seale and Amanda Knight all performed vigorously at their respective positions and brought the game to life.
Seale and wing-defence Teresa Howell exhibited superb agility to intercept a number of passes attempted by St Vincent and the Grenadines who were oftentimes guilty of not resetting as quickly as they should in the center court.
Initially, vice-captain Damisha Croney wore the wing-attack bib, but Sabrina Smith moved from center to replace her in the third quarter, which made room for Knight. The accuracy of passes made by Smith and Barbados scholarship winner Knight to shooters Wharton and Holder must be commended.
Sandra Bruce- Small, Barbados’ head coach said after the game: “The game plan was to build from our first center pass, work hard on scoring our center passes, work hard on ensuring that our bases are good right through and limit the opponent. Unfortunately, the first half did not play to plan and we were a bit off. As I keep telling my players, we are building that competitiveness in the squad and I have twelve good players. So if one set is off, bring the other set, we rearranged and [were] ready to go,” Bruce- Small said.
Explaining the necessary changes for the second half and the chemistry between the junior players, Bruce- Small said: “We told them to go back to the basics. Don’t stray from our game plan, just keep to the game plan and keep working, and we will get over the line. Knight and Seale would have played Under-21 together, so they have had that chemistry and Brianna Holder would have played with them in Under-16.”
The countries Barbados have defeated so far are Argentina, Canada, St Maarten and most recently St Vincent and the Grenadines.