T&T’s blissful run in the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) Championships came to an end on Friday night when Barbados upset the “Calypso Girls”, 59-48, at the Jean Pierre Complex in Mucurapo. T&T is ranked eight the world while Barbados is ninth. For the local netballers to have a chance of retaining their AFNA title they would have had to defeated Jamaica in the final match, which was scheduled to play yesterday, by a huge margin. After the match T&T coach Jennifer Frank, her staff and the players were visibly disappointed with some of the player finding it difficult to hold back the tears. “The team that made the least mistakes won the game,” said Frank. “Possession was the name of the game. We were getting a lot of turnovers and not converting them to goals. That is what cost us the game.” It was a battle from the first pass with Barbados giving the host team its toughest start thus far in the Championships. The teams went goal-for-goal in the first 10 minutes of the match, the scores tied at eight. T&T though, with the starting combination of Anastascia Wilson as the goal-shooter and goal-attack Janelle Barker in the circle, gained a 16-11 lead at the end of the opening period, to the pleasure of the biggest crowd gathered so for the tournament which included the Laventille Rhythm section all dressed in red.
The second quarter remained competitive with T&T centre Tricia Liverpool and vice-captain wing-attack Candice Guerero picking off some the Barbadian passes in the centre-court but lost it down the offensive end. Barbados used this to make a run and managed to outscore the local team, 19-9, to muster a 30-25 advantage at the half. At this point, Barbados goal-shooter Laurel Browne could do no wrong, netting all of her 22 attempts with her goal-attack Nikita Piggott, pumping in eight off 11 despite the efforts of T&T goal-keeper Kimfer Phillip and Crystal George. For the third session, Frank inserted George into the goal-keep position and captain Anika La Roche entered as the goal-defence. She also put in the experienced Rhonda John-Davis in as the wing-attack. The changes allowed for a more balanced session, with both teams scoring 12 goals each with the Barbadians holding on the five-goal (42-37) lead. In the fourth and final session, Frank made another change, replacing Barker (13/14) with Jellene Richardson (1/2). The youngster found it hard to get into groove and was removed after some seven minutes in the quarter, with Frank opting for Joelisa Cooper, who has been bothered by a knee injury for much of the tournament.
Cooper went on to produce six off seven but play still leaned in favour of the Barbadians, who behind the shooting of Browne and Piggott, outshot T&T again, 18-11, to earn the 11-goal victory and give T&T, its first loss of the competition.
Browne ended with a match-high 38 from 40 and Piggott, who had a spotless second half, was good for 21 off 24. “We weren’t able to score with our centre passes and when we stole theirs, we weren’t able to convert them to goals,” said Frank. Wilson, T&T’s leading shooter, who averaged 50 attempts at goal per match, had her lowest number of tries, 31 of which she scored 28. In the other matches, Jamaica stayed the only unbeaten team in the event after seven matches with a one-sided 87-19 victory over USA, St Lucia got its fifth win when it downed Grenada, 58-36 and Canada topped Guyana, 70-23.
T&T 48 (Anastascia Wilson 28/31, Janelle Barker 13/14, Joelisa Cooper 6/7, Jellene Richardson 1/2) vs Barbados 59 (Laurel Browne 38/40, Nikita Piggott 21/24). Quarter scores: 16-11 (T&T), 30-25, 42-37.
St Lucia 58 (Shem Maxwell 10/13, Indira Laurencin 36/40, Merlissa Alfred 12/19) vs Grenada 36 (Christa Stephens 22/26, Cecile Roberts 14/22). Quarter scores: 20-11, 35-21, 46-31 (St Lucia).
Jamaica 87 (Jhaneile Fowler 36/40, Anna-Kay Griffiths 21/23, Shantal Slater 27/29, Vanessa Walker 3/5) vs USA 19 (Camille Henry 15/19, Tasha Brown 2/3, Annette Payne 1/1, Swasha Shaw 1/2). Quarter scores: 28-4, 51-9, 70-15 (Jamaica).
Guyana 23 (Angeline McCarthy 18/27, Simonica Fanfair 5/6) vs Canada 70 (Cherry Nickie 33/61, Sabrina Versteeg 10/17, Kelsey Binns (Canada).