The 2015 Berger Elite League netball competition tipped off on Friday March 20 at the Leila Robinson Court. This year's competition will host some of Jamaica’s finest netball players, assembled in 6 teams vying for the championship prize of J$300,000. In addition to the team prizes, Berger Paints has announced a new award for the player named the MVP for the tournament.
The teams competing in the tournament are defending champions Kingston Hummingbirds, St Ann Orchids, Manchester Spurs, St James Sharpes, Clarendon Gaters and St Catherine Racers.
The competition will span over three and a half months with each team playing ten games. Among the players, who were drafted to teams based on a lottery draw, are all the locally based members of Jamaica’s current national squad -the Sunshine Girls, former national players as well as players from Portland, Clarendon, and Manchester.
The opening ceremony saw several officials and dignitaries in attendance. Hon. Molly Rhone, President of the International Federation of Netball, encouraged the players to play hard and safe. Marva Bernard, President of a Netball Jamaica, reminded the players that majority of the countries who Jamaica competes with have similar leagues for their players, and as such, it is only fitting that Jamaica has one as well.
MANCHESTER SPURS vs KINGSTON HUMMINGBIRDS
The first and only match of the day kicked off at approximately 8:05 pm.
Manchester Spurs made a great start to the game, with a quick goal from Shantal Slater who was in form scoring 22/27 attempts to lead the Spurs to a nail biting 35-34 win over defending champions Kingston Hummingbird.
The Hummingbirds defended stoutly by making some ideal defensive plays. The Spurs had to move the ball well to get free of the Birds' players and to keep in close contention.
The Birds were far from their best. It was evident that they were not in immaculate shape for the opening game. Despite their rustiness though, they maintained the lead until the final moments in the last quarter.
The second half was similar to the first, but the Spurs were determined to go ahead. They made some vital interceptions in the centre court as the opposition tried to play over them. Thristina Harwood - 27/32 and Mellisha Josephs - 7/11 of the Hummingbirds goals were not enough to hold out Shantal Slater - 22/27 and Nicole Dixon - 8/14. Carline Graham coach of Manchester Spurs said, it was "a good win, but still skills to work on."
ST. CATHERINE RACERS vs ST. ANN ORCHIDS
The Racers kick started their campaign on a winning note on Sunday after blowing away Orchids 53-31 and registering the largest margin of victory in the Berger Elite League at the Leila Robinson Court. Shooter Ladonna Lamoth (32/41) and attacker Anna-Kay Griffiths (21/29) had their way with the Orchids defence for most of the game, playing off each other nicely to create passing lanes and scoring opportunities. A game which showed flare at different intervals of the first half came alive in the second period.
Former national player Nordia Hanson stepped in with good results after some brilliant movement around the circle; even though the court was extremely uncomfortable. Orchid then swapped their players around in order to put up a gallant fight. Both defenders (Shasha-Lee Thomas and Kimone Tulloch) of Orchids worked extremely hard to stop Racers from extending their lead. Shanice Beckford - 16/18 Gizelle Allison - 15/21 gave of themselves but they were no match to a rock solid defence by Malysha Kelly and Shanton Motheson.
Some fantastic shooting from Lamoth and Griffiths rocketed Racers to a 27-11 finish at half time and 36-25 after the third quarter. In the final quarter Orchids got increasingly frustrated as Racers took some interceptions. This propelled the Racers to a well deserved victory (53/31).
CLARENDON GATERS vs ST. JAMES SHARPES
The feature match of the evening saw the Clarendon Gators and the St. James Sharpes playing to an exciting draw. With both teams going out hard, the 1st quarter was touch and go with end-to-end netball. Sasher-Gaye Henry played WA and had a storming quarter with 3 to 4 interceptions. But Gators held off, and finished the 1st quarter with a 3 goal lead.
The physical presence of GD Kasey Evering bettered the diminutive thin frame of GS Jodi-Ann Ffrench-Kentish - 22/31 and GA Marion Campbell - 9/14. Also in defence Paula Thompson worked tirelessly and smartly to contain and outfox Gators GS Simone Gordon – 31/42. The half however ended tied at 16-16.
In the 3rd quarter, Sharpes game play continued to improve and the team grew more confident with each other and played hard netball. This new confident game play proved too much for Gators, as in the 3rd quarter Sharpes took the lead. As the legs of the towering Evering started to wilt, Sharpes went for the kill but unforced errors hindered them from expanding their lead.
In the last quarter the Gators continued to battle hard, and the Sharpe's poor fitness and lack of focus towards the end, brought the Gators back in the game due to some mistakes in the attacking circle. Luckily, with the intelligence of coach Brown who took a timely time out to take the sting out of the game. The Sharpes however, managed to hang on to a share of the spoils in a nerve-wracking 31-31 finish.