THE Calypso Girls are champions of the Americas Netball Federation Association (AFNA) once again after recording a resounding 65-51 victory over Barbados on Sunday night in front a sold-out crowd at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium, Barbados.
An elated TT coach Wesley ‘Pepe’ Gomes said, “This is for Trinidad and Tobago! The game started point for point so it wasn’t until half-time where we established a little dominance and got a little freedom…It was a hard game, Barbados played well.”
Reflecting on his second half changes, which proved to be the game-changer, he said, “During the tournament we tried that combination and it was best defensive combination for us, so I thought that we would have changed it at half-time.” He also lauded national skipper Rhonda John-Davis who continues to deliver on the international stage.
“Rhonda’s influence was very important, you would have seen it when she came back on at centre, that is why I took her off at the end of the first quarter, to give her a rest to bring her on just in case we ran into any panic because she could calm it down.”
John- Davis admitted, “We started off the game really tight and we were afraid to contest. In the second half, we just needed someone to loosen it up then I went on and distributed some good handover and tips that got us going. The (Bajan) team tried to rush us but we had to make sure and stay calm and remember to support one another at all times. So, once we had that support the confidence grew.”
Commenting on the experience of playing in a packed stadium with away supporters, “We live for this, we train, we work hard and this is what we enjoy. We like that the majority of the stadium is against us and the people who want us to win are a small unit, but it is so deep we can feel it.”
The game was evenly contested at the start with both teams matching each other and the score-line reflected that at 15-15 when the first quarter ended.
However, in the second quarter, the Calypso Girls were able to get key steals and force their opponents into turnovers which allowed them to carry a slim lead of 30-26 into half-time. TT shooters Samantha Wallace and Kalifa Mc Collin were perfect in that quarter with 10 and five goals respectively.
To begin the second half, coach ‘Pepe’ Gomes made some key switches in his team which paid off immediately. He started Kemba Duncan, Onella Jack and Candice Guerero in defence, while John- Davis and Shantel Seemungal held down the centre positions and Wallace and Mc Collin remained as shooters.
TT were the aggressors in the third quarter, silencing the crowd for the majority of the 15 minutes as they extended their lead to as much as 12 goals. They scored 18 goals in the quarter compared to the host’s 11. Wallace remained perfect with 11 goals while Mc Collin chipped in with seven.
The fourth quarter was end-to-end action with both teams demonstrating why they were the two best teams in tournament, resulting in them qualifying for the World Cup next year July in Liverpool. The “Bajan Gems” who were cheered on by the crowd, had a five-goal streak, cutting TT’s lead to only six with half of the quarter remained. Then, TT`s skipper and the most capped player John-Davis, barked instructions to her troops to slow the game. The twin-island team held their nerves in the end to retain their title at 65-51without defeat in seven matches. Wallace ended with 39 goals, while Mc Collin added 26, with both shooters missing two attempts each for the entire game.
TT squad: Daystar Swift, Kemba Duncan, Shaquanda Greene, Onella Jack, Rhonda John- Davis, Candice Guerero, Shantel and Shernece Seemungal, Samantha Wallace, Kalifa Mc Collin, Joelisa Cooper, Tahirah Hollingsworth.
Staff: Wesley “Pepe” Gomes (coach), Grace Parkinson (assistant coach), Carol Gittens (manager), Kern Meloney (primary care person) and Wayne Samuel (trainer).