Holmwood reclaim rural netball crown
There was a carnival atmosphere on Thursday as Holmwood Technical and Denbigh High ruled supreme in the ISSA Rural Area Schoolgirl Junior and Senior netball finals at Manchester High School.
Holmwood stopped defending champions Denbigh 41-36 to reclaim the senior title while Denbigh held on to their junior title after cruising past first-time finalists Glenmuir 24-12.
The feature game, the Senior final, was a clash between the two most dominant teams in rural schoolgirl netball, with Holmwood going into the game in search of their 12th title while a determined Denbigh were looking for consecutive championship success. Fans were not disappointed as they were treated to exciting and competitive netball, with both teams giving it their all.
Boasting a team that includes several members of the national under 16 and development teams, it was the Carline Graham-Powell-coached Holmwood outfit that started as slight favourites to regain the title they last won in 2017. On the other hand, the Janice Walker-coached Denbigh, who were appearing in their sixth straight final, were hoping for another success over their fierce rivals.
Holmwood came out of the blocks first, scoring off their first centre pass, with Denbigh responding by also scoring from their first centre pass to even the score at 1-1. For the remainder of the quarter, it was a tit-for-tat affair, with the scores being tied twice at 4-4 and 6-6, before Holmwood took a 10-7 lead at the end of the quarter.
Holmood scored two quick unanswered goals through goal-attack and captain, Aaliah Lue and goalshooter Shadine Bartley early in the second quarter to extend their lead to 12-7. They maintained that lead to take a 22-18 advantage into the half-time break.
The experience of Holmwood came to the fore in the third quarter with the likes of wing attack Ryoka James and centre Shanice McKenley taking control in mid-court, making it easier for their shooters as they built up a healthy 34-26 lead going into the final quarter.
Determined not to go down without a fight, the defending champions, led by the accuracy of goal shooter Riama Wisdom and goal attack, Taffia Hunter, brought back their team after reducing the deficit to four with Holmwood hanging on 36-32.
However, the girls from Christiana held their form for a five goals win to land their 12th hold on the title.
Bartley, with 22 goals from 34 attempts, top-scored for Holmwood with Lue, who was voted MVP, chipping in with 19 from 24. Wisdom 22 from 31 and Hunter 12 from 15 scored most of the goals for their Denbigh team.
“This one is sweeter than the others, as last year, we were in two finals, and we lost and went back to the drawing board to sort out our mistakes, and I am happy we were able to make amends,” said Graham-Powell, who has guided her team to 16 rural finals.
“Our captain, Aaliah (Lue), was brilliant, but the defenders were a bit off, but we will fix this for our final game against Excelsior in the All-Island final next week. They beat us two years ago, and we are confident of victory this time around.”
“Our shooters were just off on the day as they allowed Holmwood to get away earlier, and we just could not peg them back,” said a disappointed Walker.
Denbigh, however, had a lot to cheer for in the opening final as their Junior team held on to their title after a one-sided win over Glenmuir High.
Unbeaten coming into the final, a run that includes a two-goal win over Denbigh at the preliminary stage, the very young Glenmuir team started brightly, going up 4-1 before they were pegged back despite their 4-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
For the remainder of the game, it was all Denbigh, with the inexperienced Glenmuir team managing only one goal in the second quarter as Denbigh led 9-5 at the half time break.
Denbigh raced to an 18-8 third- quarter lead before rounding off their comprehensive win.
Goal shooter Ramona Halstead with 14 goals from 22 attempts, and goal-attack Shade McCalla, with 10 from 19, produced the most goals for Denbigh, while goalshooter, Shauna Martin, with 11 from 19, top-scored for the losers. McLean of Denbigh was voted MVP.
The 2019 season will come to an end on Wednesday at the same venue with the playing of the All-Island finals.
Urban champions Gaynstead, who are also the defending champions, will face Denbigh among the juniors. New champions will be crowned among the seniors as 2017 champions Excelsior will face Holmood.