Blackbirds New KO Netball Queens
Title captured after three years of chasing
AFTER THREE YEARS of chasing a senior netball title, UWI Blackbirds have finally found a winning nest.

They chirped to an easy 31-24 victory Saturday night over defending champions Pine Hill St Barnabas in the Little League Gym senior knockout final at the Netball Stadium. Their first capture of silverware was not as challenging as the big crowd expected because the dethroned queens chose the wrong time to produce their poorest performance of the tournament and the Blackbirds capitalised with maximum benefits. That fact shouldn’t be used to detract from UWI’s triumph because they had control over only what was happening on their side of the court and made sure they executed their game plan to the best of their ability.
This isn’t to say that their game plan was flawless, because, like St. Barnabas, early nerves caused both sides to turn over the ball much too often in the first quarter. In fact, St. Barnabas posted the first four goals without response and some spectators were heard saying they hoped it wouldn’t be a blow-out.
With strident urgings from the bench, led by coach Margaret Cutting, who still has strong St. Barnabas roots, the Blackbirds opened up their wings. They picked away at their opponents’ disjointed play and flew into the lead at the end of the quarter with a comfortable 12-6 cushion. The statistics showed that after conceding early offensive possession, UWI’s shooters took over and the shape of the game was set from then.
In the second quarter, St. Barnabas’ disintegration gained momentum as errant passing and lack of cohesion handed the Blackbirds the opportunity to see the sky as the limit. They surged to an 18-10 lead by half-time and thereafter produced their own purposeful play that was motored in the engine room by wing attack Damisha Croney, another product of St. Barnabas and centre Teresa Howell. This pair worked beautifully in tandem, threading the ball into the goal circle with relative ease despite the formidable presence of Shonnette Bruce, who was voted Best Defender at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
Bruce and young Sade Browne definitely had their hands full as the Blackbirds’ offensive unit bamboozled them in the bottom half of the encounter with subtle movement, fakes and great positioning by Shonica Wharton and goal attack Rieah Holder, who put the finishing touches to good teamwork.

Going into the last quarter leading 27-17, the title was the Blackbirds’ to lose because even up to that point St. Barnabas were still searching for a court leader to steady the ship in the rough waters they encountered. Truthfully, there wasn't a wide margin in shooting attempts at goal as UWI had 48 and St. Barnabas, 45. The defining statistic is that the new champions converted 31 of theirs to their opponents’ 24. Wharton scored 22 of 34 attempts and Holder nine of 14 for the winners. For the losers, both Sheniqua Thomas (11/22) and Shekira Boxill (6/12) netted only 50 per cent of their attempts while Carla Boyce scored seven from 11.