Hummingbirds seek Spurs revenge
With their sights set on claiming top spot in the preliminaries, Kingston Hummingbirds will be looking to turn the tables on unbeaten Manchester Spurs in today's big Berger Elite League (BEL) matchup at the Leila Robinson Courts, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The match, the last before the Netball Jamaica semi-pro championship takes a Christmas break until January 7, will be the first game of a double-header, with Clarendon Gaters battling St Catherine Racers in a 7:00 p.m. clash.
Both games are expected to be highly competitive, but major attention will be placed on the opening encounter, which brings together the teams that contested last season's championship game.
The contestants are building to a similar climax, with Manchester Spurs leading the standings with a perfect record, having won all six encounters for a maximum 18 points.
Kingston Hummingbirds, the defending champions, are next in line with 12 points from five matches, with their only defeat - 51-53 - coming at the hands of the Manchester Spurs. They are looking to turn the tables.
"It is very, very important to beat them because of the positions when you get to the semi-finals," said Winston Nevers, head coach of the Kingston Hummingbirds.
Should his team win and both continue to defeat the other teams, they would tie on points at the end of the preliminaries and goal difference would decide the semi-final pairings. First will play fourth and second versus third. Nevers explained that a battle against fourth should exert them less, hence his reason for wanting to top the standings.
Though losing their first round encounter, Kingston Hummingbirds made considerably more shooting chances and Nevers noted that finishing is of the utmost importance.
"If you don't shoot then you're in trouble. The defence is playing well; Abbeygail Linton at goal keeper, she's doing quite well. Paula Thompson in the mid-court and then Shanice Beckford at the goal attack are supplying in the circle very, very well. That's all we need her to do, just shoot the ball," said Nevers.
"Sabrina Spence is shooting most of our goals. I have to commend her because she's playing really strong inside the circle and she's making the decisions we want her to make. The shooting is excellent, the movement inside the circle is excellent, he possession is excellent, and we want her to continue that way," he further analysed.
With a host of national and high-calibre players on their roster, the teams are nicely balanced and very strong in attack, with Gezelle Allison, Anna-Kay Griffiths, and Nicole Dixon have been getting the goals for the Spurs, who have otherwise racked up some big wins. They will face main opposition in the circle from the Hummingbirds' Abbeygail Linton.
"It's a tough game. We'll have to shoot well in order to beat them," said Connie Francis, head coach of Manchester Spurs.
"They're very talented throughout the court; shooting, centre court and the defensive end so we know that it won't be easy. But we're up to the task. I think that we're just as good a team that can also win," added Francis.
In the second match, St Catherine Racers, on seven points and Clarendon Gaters, six, are in a keen battle for the top four positions. The Racers are a fighting bunch and Gaters have a habit of starting well but not maintaining their levels throughout. There was not much in their first-round matchup, a four-point gap to Gaters in a 42-38 win. This one is again expected to go down to the wire.