Thursday, April 25, 2024

Cranes knock shine off Gems

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The Bajan Gems dazzled briefly but then lost their shine and the historic opening netball test to Uganda’s She Cranes 48-38 on Friday night at the Wildey Gymnasium.

The 11th ranked Gems overcame a stuttering start to lead 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. World No.7 She Cranes battled back to lock the scores 26-26 at half-time. But the Bajans were plagued by a number of turnovers as they tried to give court time to a number of rookies.

Thus, too many errors and their all familiar poor third quarter performance saw the Gems scoring just four goals to fail in a bid to overhaul the Africans’ lead. Not even a perfect 18 goals from 18 attempts from veteran Latonia Blackman could deny the high scoring effort of 32 from 37 by goal shooter Stella Oyella.

Barbados started with Blackman at goal shooter, the returning Nikita Payne at goal attack, captain Rhe-Ann Niles-Mapp and Shonette Bruce in defence, Damisha Croney at wing attack, Teresa Howell, wing defence and the flashy Sabreena Smith controlling the centre.

While Barbados’ most capped player Blackman carried the offence in the first half with her experience and accuracy, Bruce and Niles-Mapp were able to control the tall attackers Oyella and Racheal Nanyoonga at the other end.

The Gems moved from 1-3 to 6-3 with Blackman’s attack compensating for Payne’s early misses and hesitancy in taking shots. Payne would then find her range, scoring successive beauties to move the Gems from 9-7 to 11-7.

The She Cranes employed their short ball passes to shift the Gems’ defence and then used the long pass to fire up their offence. While Croney and Smith looked good in midcourt, Howell seemed at sea. Young Amanda Knight later replaced Howell and despite exciting with a few plays, she too could not match the height or aggression of the Africans.

With the Gems promising the fans a battle in the second half, a number of changes altered the script for the worse. Blackman moved to goal attack, where she scored just one goal from one attempt in the last two quarters.  Newcomer Stephanie Patrick replaced Payne, who had shot 13 of 14, to add nine goals from her 11 attempts.

However, with Niles-Mapp going to the bench and Tonisha Rock-Yaw and then Shonte Seale being tried at goal defence, the chemistry between Bruce and Niles-Mapp dissipated and the penalty contacts and uncontested shots increased for the She Cranes.

Rieah Holder was also given a run at wing attack and then centre, but the new combinations saw the Gems struggling with their communication and midcourt play which saw the ball being held too long and often failing to reach the shooters.

On the other hand, the She Cranes continued to soar as they surged from 10-13, 26-26 and 30-38 to hold on for the crucial win. Nanyoonga proved a good support for Oyella scoring 14 goals from 17 attempts.

The Gems would have been hoping to pull back the series last night to make tonight’s final 7:30 game a decider. Having dropped one spot in the world rankings, the Gems would want to take the series to climb the tables in the next releases.

The 2018 netball season will open at 4:30 p.m. to precede the third test. (KB)

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