Cougars crowning glory was won in overtime 85-79 as they dethroned Preferred Insurance Brokers Pinelands to capture the #1 Beauty Supplies and Exchange Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Women’s League series 2-1 at the Wildey Gymnasium last night.
Endorsed this season by Massy Duracell, Cougars clinched game one 81-74, lost game two 84-77, but returned to contest the decisive game three yesterday with a determined spirit that when the final buzzer sounded, they were not bridesmaids for a second consecutive year to Pinelands.
Fuelled by their captain and season’s most valuable player Toni Atherley with a game-high 33 points, Cougars trailed 21-14 in the opening stanza of the two-hour long encounter but came from behind to equalize 35-35 at halftime.
They then went on to lead by one point 55-54 when the penultimate quarter ended. And just when Cougars appeared to be in a good position having acquired an eight-point advantage with four minutes to play, Pinelands upped their offensive game to force overtime as the scores were locked 74-74 at the end of regular time.
The game should have never seen overtime because Atherley nailed a clear three-point shot that would have given Cougars victory by one point 75-74. But instead referee Wayne Babb signalled two to the official’s desk and the scores ended up being tied 74-74 with less than 30 seconds to play.
It was a decision everyone involved had to live with, and solid defence which has been a key factor in this final was needed more than ever during the five allotted minutes of overtime. In the end, it was the victorious Cougars team coached by Dexter Griffith that prevailed as champions outscoring 11-5 during extra time for a well-deserved victory.
What is ironic, Pinelands claimed the trophy in similar fashion 2-1 when they met Cougars last year in the final, and even though coach Chris Holder and his unit made a strong case yet again, they just were unable to rewrite the script.
Atherley credited a total team effort for Cougars’ performance saying Pinelands who had skillful and athletic players including national point-guard Maria ‘Flowers’ Cumberbatch with 20 points, Latifah Wood, 18 points, and Tamisha Flatts, 13, were difficult to defeat.
“It is pretty difficult staying with them for forty minutes but coming onto the end we slowed down the ball a little bit, played some good defence and we pulled it off,” said Atherley, who had to tone down her exuberant, emotional style of play to remain focused and ensure that her team came out triumphant.
“It [emotion] takes me out of my game a little bit, and the first quarter didn’t go well for me. I was very frustrated, I was off, but I had to stay in the game, keep shooting and attacking,” said the veteran national point-guard.
Atherley occupied the court for 45 minutes and had eight two-pointers and five treys and was also instrumental on defence with five rebounds, four of which were defensive along with five assists and three steals.
Cougars badly needed a third ball-handler heading into the decisive game and former national guard Ria Phillips even though not in the best of form having been found guilty on more than one occasion by referees Rene Batson and Wayne Babb for traveling, she still managed to deploy the necessary skills-set needed to carry the ball and aided at times on offence.
Phillips contributed ten points to the overall tally while fellow guard Tiffany Thorpe along with forwards Jennifer Joseph-Hackett and Astrid Alleyne totalled 12 each. Latecia Green, Sade Haynes and Tricia Gill who played excellent defence throughout this season registered two points apiece.
Pinelands were still in with a chance when Wood went up strong and scored a two-pointer to cut the deficit by three with under a minute left to play. Pinelands point-guard Makela Walcott then sought to free her arms for the three-point equalizer and missed, as Cougars gained possession and found Atherley for a deep three on the buzzer.
Walcott and Pinelands captain Sade Clarke ended on seven points each, Shakira Shorey had six while Janiece Clarke and Anicia Wood added two respectively.