Photo: Excelsior sharp shooter Racoya Douglas is a picture of concentration before executing a shot in the semifinal against Christ Church Foundation yesterday. Douglas dropped in 17/28 as Excelsior won the game 61-42.
It will be an all-Jamaican final between Excelsior High and Holmwood Technical at the inaugural staging of the AFNA Champion of Champions High School Netball Tournament at the Leila Robinson Netball Courts, in Kingston, Jamaica this afternoon.
The final will be preceded by an all-Barbados third place match between Springer Memorial and Christ Church Foundation starting at 3pm.
The finalists were decided yesterday when Holmwood got the better of Springer while Excelsior bested Christ Church in the semifinals.
In the second semifinal yesterday and for the first time in the AFNA Champion of Champions High School Netball tournament, a game lived up to its billing as Christ Church Foundation of Barbados gave the Jamaican champions Excelsior High a real challenge. The most explosive match of the week long competition was watched by a full house at the Leila Robinson Courts and it thrilled the audience for the entire hour’s play.
The Barbados based team was the first to score and led the game 6-5 at the first water break and 12-11 at the end of the first quarter thanks to the high energy performance of Brianna Holder and solid shooting from Chiara Chase.
Excelsior realizing that they were in a game, found a different gear in the second quarter and increased their intensity at both ends of the court. Key defensive interceptions led to turnovers while the experienced Hasana Williams and top shooter Racoya Douglas increased their scoring rate.
Captain Crystal Crawford was a big force at centre disrupting the Bajans and making important steals as Excelsior outscored Christ Church 18-8 in the second quarter to lead 29-20 at half time.
The Christopher Smart coached team remained focused and repeated their performance in the third quarter, dropping in another 18 goals while limiting Christ Church to 7 to lead by 20 at the end of the third quarter, 47-27.
With an eye on the final against main rivals Holmood, Excelsior dialed down the intensity but Christ Church kept going and had their highest scoring quarter of the match. At the final whistle the scores read: Excelsior 61-42 Christ Church.
National representative Hasana Williams had a huge scoring game, dropping in 44/55 while Racoya Douglas had 17/28 for Excelsior. Chiara Chase had 19/25 while Brianna Holder had 13/17 for Christ Church.
Smart praised the impact his captain Crystal Crawford has had on the tournament.
“Crystal has been leading from the front from the start of this tournament. Every single game that we have played so far she has done that. Today when she saw that her team went flat she stepped it up a gear.”
“At the start of the competition we anticipated playing Holmwood in the final, so it’s not a surprise to us. We always believed that Holmwood and Excelsior, in terms of pedigree, is a touch ahead of the other teams in the Caribbean, so we definitely anticipated playing against Holmwood and we are looking forward to it,” Smart added.
While admitting that the final will be tough, Smart if confident of victory nonetheless.
“We beat them in the all-island final last year and I think our team is a touch better than when we played them in the all island final, but I know Holmwood have been doing some work themselves. We are very confident (going into the final) and we look forward to the challenge. We didn’t want an easy semifinal and we got one that helped to prepare us for the final and we don’t expect to get an easy final from Holmwood.”
Ingrid Folkes commended her girls for their effort in the semifinals but hailed the superior Excelsior team.
“We started well but things went a little shaky in the third quarter, because in the second quarter things were still a little bit close. We fell down in the third quarter but we came back in the last quarter and picked back up. So we were not embarrassed, we had a good game. It was a god game, that team (Excelsior) is good. We will be back.”
She was confident of a third place finish.
“We will be looking to beat Springer again, like how we beat them at home.”
In the first semifinal, Holmwood Technical eased into the final following a 45-14 blowout win over Springer Memorial. Despite scoring first Springer found themselves trailing 8-2 at the first water break and failed to add to their total as the first quarter ended 11-2.
Desperate to book a place in the final, Holmwood kept up the onslaught on their opponents outscoring Springer 13-3 in the second quarter for a 24-5 half time lead.
Holmwood virtually made the game safe in the third quarter outscoring Springer 12-5 despite losing the competitions top scorer Shadine Bartley to injury. A low keyed fourth quarter saw a total of only 13 goals, nine to Holmwood and four to Springer as the Jamaican All-Island Runners-Up booked their spot in the first ever final of the competition.
Shadine Bartley finished with 27/37 while her teammate Alliah Lue got 18/21 for Holmwood. Jada Smith had 8/9 while Tricia Phillips scored 3/11 for Springer.
Carline Graham-Powell, coach of Holmwood Technical was expecting a tougher challenge in the semifinals.
“We saw Springer in training a number of times and based on what we saw I thought we would have gotten a tougher competition. Nevertheless we are grateful for the win and we are sure that we are now ready, we have the confidence that we need to go into the finals. Hopefully we are going to be the first AFNA Champions and that is what we are looking forward to,” she said.
“Excelsior is a very skilled team just like Holmwood so…it’s going to be the team that can keep it together, keep focused, the team that is fitter. We know that we are going to have to be fighting, we are accustomed to fighting, we are accustomed to going into extra time, so whatever Excelsior comes with, we will be ready to take them on and ready to be champions,” Graham-Powell declared.
A closing ceremony will follow the final today.