Barbados’ crowning moment as the undefeated champions of the 18th annual Jean Pierre Under-16 Regional Netball Competition played this past week in Antigua and Barbuda will go down in history as one of the team’s best ever performances.
So said head coach Cameron Greenidge when the 12-member team exited the arrival hall of the Grantley Adams International Airport just before 7.p.m tonight decorated with several trophies.
The list of accolades included overall champions, the team with the best goal average, the top defensive team and the best-outfitted team. The young Bajan Gems were also third in the shooting competition won by Trinidad and Tobago while St. Lucia came second.
And it does not stop there as six Barbadian players were listed among the top 16 players of the tournament, led by Most Valuable Player Shonica Griffith, co-captain Rhashan Hunte, Vivica Addison, Tenielle Chapman-Goodluck and Sumara Benn, the daughter of former West Indies cricketer Sulieman Benn.
This is the second time in the regional Under-16 netball competition that Barbados would have won the championship undefeated having done so in 2005 in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Victorious coach Greenidge credited Barbados’ performance to the lengthy preparation that started at home. He also said that this particular team was fuelled with a passion to win and that is what made them so successful having played six matches against Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Lucia.
“It started here in Barbados, we were fortunate to be allowed to compete in the local domestic division three competition. I had spoken to the president [Nisha Craigwell] and I told her we needed match preparation going into the tournament. I told her I wanted a division where we would have gotten more than four games, division three we had eight games before we left. So, we were able to win all eight games. I was also able to try various combinations with them. So, going into Antigua, I had an idea of where we were. Trinidad was our first game and after playing Trinidad, it was that easy,” Greenidge said.
Jamaica did not feature in this year’s competition and Greenidge stated that even though it was sad not having the Sunshine Girls there, he was confident Barbados would have beaten them.
“It is sad that Jamaica wasn’t there because when I first became the coach I said to the Barbados Netball Association, I wanted a tournament where Jamaica was going to be there. I knew it was not going to be a challenge, I always thought that we were going to win. But being in a tournament and beating Jamaica would have been sweeter. And I know we would have beaten Jamaica in this particular tournament.
He added: “I had a group of girls who were passionate about the game as a whole. I had about six who came back from 2018, three reserves, so that would have been nine in total. So, technically we just added three to them and we started to gel. So, I knew what I had, the girls were passionate. I had a diverse group of players who were able to play more than one position, so that would have help in terms of the combinations. So, we would have beaten Jamaica, I am confident of that.”
Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports John King greeted the young netballers at the airport and congratulated them on their achievements. He told them that despite Barbados’ limited resources they should feel proud.
“We really don’t have at this point in our development all of the things that the athletes in the larger territories have. But there is one thing that you don’t need money to get it, and those things are will, determination, just the ability to succeed and be yourself at all times,” King said.
On the actual court yesterday evening, Barbados clinched the title when they defeated St Lucia 29-25 in their crucial final encounter of the tourney.
With scores tied 13-all at halftime and 18-all at the end of the third quarter, Barbados out-scored the St Lucians 11-7 in the all-important last stanza to snatch an amazing victory at the YMCA Sports Complex.
They were led by goal shooter Benn who netted 17 from 24 attempts, including six from eight in the final quarter. She received outstanding support from goal attack Chiara Chase who was perfect in shooting eight from eight attempts, with five coming in the last quarter.
For St Lucia, Dasha Eugene scored 20 goals from 25 attempts, netting nine from 12 in the first half to keep St Lucia in the contest.
With the success, Barbados topped the standings with 30 points, four clear of Trinidad and Tobago who finished second while St Lucia were third on 22.