Francis wants Spurs to improve mental game in BEL finals

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Manchester Spurs' Head Coach Connie Francis says her team must display mental toughness to complement their skills and enhance their chances of tying the best-of-three finals against the Kingston Hummingbirds 1-1 when both meet in Game Two of Netball Jamaica's Berger Elite League (BEL) today inside the National Indoor Sports Centre (NISC).

Kingston Hummingbirds won Game One of the finals 58-49 at the NISC on Monday night to set themselves on course to winning the championship for the third-straight time.

The teams have now played against each other three times this season. Manchester Spurs won the first preliminary encounter 53-51 and Kingston Hummingbirds took the second 57-52.

Goal shooter Sabrina Spence led the scoring for the defending champions with a remarkable 38 goals from 40 tries. Her Hummingbirds shooting partner Shanice Beckford was also in fine form, scoring 20 goals from 23 tries.

Manchester Spurs' goals were scored by Gezelle Allison, who sank 23 of 27 tries, Anna Kay Griffiths, 22 from 33, and Nicole Dixon, four from nine.

The Spurs, who lost 1-2 to the Hummingbirds in last year's best-of-three finals, are chasing their first BEL title.

“I think some of our girls they need to put the outside elements outside of the game … you have to be able to play above whatever is happening and make adjustments. I thought that we did not make adjustments as we'd have liked to,” said Francis.

The outside element to which Francis referred is officiating.

“We lost our way in spurts of the game because we had good runs, fantastic runs, but we missed crucial shots. We didn't take care of the ball as we'd have liked, and the officiating is not good. And at this stage I've to talk about it, because it's happening too often to our team. We worked so hard to get here, and how I'm feeling now it's like why should our team even turn up for the next one,” argued Francis.

She continued: “We need to be given a fair opportunity because it's two good teams going up against each other. I think that one team is being taken care of; I think a lot of penalties have been called against our defending team, while our attacking team has to work so hard without the contact being called. If you have the consistency I don't have a problem with it, because all in all we made errors, we made some crucial errors, we missed some crucial shots. But all in all we had some good runs, we had some really fantastic runs.”

Spurs' best run came as they blasted out of the blocks at the start of the third quarter to score five unanswered goals and take a 40-38 lead.

However, the Hummingbirds, who throughout the season have appeared capable of finding that extra gear when needed, transformed their game with solid defending and attacking through the court in a tough, physical battle.

Their success in getting the ball under the hoop proved the main difference, especially when added to the height advantage leveraged through Spence. Contrastingly, Manchester Spurs had no clear disparity in height at their attacking end, which made for greater competitiveness and opportunity to Kingston Hummingbirds' defenders.

The Hummingbirds led 14-10, 28-25 and 41-38 at the end of the first three quarters and Winston Nevers, the team's head coach, noted things they will be working to maintain in today's Game Two.

“First, I want to say congrats to the Manchester Spurs team; they really played well. They pushed us to the limit,” said Nevers.

“We executed well; we were patient with the ball, our concentration was high, and then we put it inside the circle, because we have two top shooters, Shanice Beckford and Sabrina Spence, they really played well today. And I must say thanks to the defensive area because there's where we won the game, those interceptions, because we played close to whoever's receiving the ball,” added Nevers, who is seeking his first BEL title as a coach.

Asked about closing out the series today, Nevers said: “We want to do that, but this Manchester team is a very quick team. What we have to do is make sure that we are patient, look at their weakness and strength and exploit it. We have to assess them during the match.”

Meanwhile, Clarendon Gaters, the team that was fast gaining form towards the end of the preliminaries, won the third-place play-off 49-38 against St Ann Orchids.

The Gaters trailed 9-11, 23-24 at the end of the first two quarters, but picked up steam to blow away their rivals over the final half. They began putting daylight between themselves by the end of the third quarter, by establishing a five-point gap while extending their score to 35 and down the stretch they kept improving their momentum.

The untried combination of Petal Smith and Danielle Masters accounted for all Clarendon Gaters' goals, with Smith scoring 26 from 34 attempts and Masters converting 23 of 41 tries.

For St Ann Orchids, Simone Gordon led the scoring with 17 from 21 attempts, Thristina Harwood netting 15 of 20 and Rebekah Robinson six of nine.

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