Down to the wire

Spurs clip Hummingbirds' wings to force game three of BEL finals

Friday, January 25, 2019

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The Manchester Spurs, led by a player of the game performance by Gezelle Allison, forced a game three in the Berger Elite League (BEL) netball finals when they defeated defending champions Kingston Hummingbirds 57-53 inside the National Indoor Sports Arena Wednesday night.

The Spurs led from start to finish as they put in a determined effort against the champions who staged a late comeback to push the Connie Francis-coached team all the way to the line.

Allison was the first to score on the night and the Spurs were up by three before the Hummingbirds got on the scoreboard. The experienced Anna-Kay Griffiths was the perfect foil for Allison as they combined to keep their team in front 17-12 at the end of the first quarter.

The expected response from the Hummingbirds never came in the second quarter as Spurs maintained the five-point advantage for most of the quarter before slowly extending it to lead by eight at half-time as the scores read: Manchester Spurs 33 Kingston Hummingbird 25.

A tactical adjustment by Winston Nevers in switching Sunshine Girl Shanice Beckford from goal-attack to wing-attack with Hasana Williams in the third quarter, paid dividends as the increase in mobility in midcourt saw the lead cut to just four points at 39-35 Spurs. The third quarter ended with the Spurs leading 44-40, but with the champions firmly back in the contest.

But the Spurs would make a run of their own at the start of the fourth quarter, surging to a seven-point lead at 48-41. Then it was the turn of the Birds to go on their run to cut the gap once more to 51-47 as the crowd got into the contest. Sabrina Spence then brought her team to within touching distance with consecutive shots as the scoreboard read 51-49 to the Spurs. It was the closest that the Hummingbirds had been since the start of the match.

With three minutes to go, the scoreboard read 53-51 for Spurs and it was still anybody's game. But Allison would get the job done for her team, scoring on some clutch plays as the Spurs inched ahead to 56-53 with a minute to go.

The game was decided on one key play with 45 seconds to go. An important interception in defence was followed up with a goal by Allison to seal the win at 57-53. This ensures the teams return to the same venue tomorrow to determine which is the best team in the Berger Elite League this year.

High point shooter Allison ended with 41 from 49 attempts, while her teammate Griffiths ended with 16 from 20 for the Spurs. Spence had 29 from 34, Williams 18 from 19 and Beckford six from seven for the Hummingbirds.

Francis hailed her players for sticking to the game plan which earned them the win on the night.

“We had our game plan and it was for them to really work hard to push the Hummingbirds to the limit because they are the defending champions. We didn't want it to be a walk-over so we said hey, if they are that good they have to earn it,” she said.

Francis also credited her shooters for getting the job done on offence.

“I thought all the players did well…I thought we were cagey, trying not to lose it. I thought our shooting was excellent, really excellent,” she noted.

Nevers said his players just never got going on the night.

“Our attackers weren't moving as how they should like Monday night and so from the first quarter we were down by five and it was difficult.

“From the first half we never start, we never hurried on the court and ready to play. We were slow in passing the ball, slow in movement, slow in getting possession of the ball,” said the veteran coach.

Game three will begin at 6:00 pm at the same venue tomorrow.

— Dwayne Richards

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