Manchester Spurs win overtime thriller to secure first BEL title

By January 27, 2019

The Manchester Sputs dethroned champions Kingston Hummingbirds 71-65 in a thrilling overtime win on Saturday night to claim their first hold on the Berger Elite League trophy.

Gezelle Allison, the game’s MVP, scored 31 of 34 attempts to lead her side to the victory. However, she handed the award to teammate Anna Kay Griffith who scored 40 from 42 to seal the nerve-racking victory.

“Anna Kay Griffiths played her guts out. I challenged both of them,” said Spurs coach Connie Francis.

“I said ‘you’ve never won a championship here in this setting. Can you two shooters win it for us’ and they said ‘Coach, we are ready’ and I was backing them 110 per cent.”

In winning, the Manchester Spurs avenged their 1-2 loss to the Kingston Hummingbirds in the 2018 finals, after winning the first game of the finals. This time, they were the ones playing from behind after surrendering Game One of the finals 58-49. However, they got even in last Wednesday’s Game Two, winning 57-52.

“Finally! I’m very happy, I’m really excited for the team,” said winning coach Connie Francis following the final whistle at the National Indoor Sports Complex.

The decisive match was a final for the ages. The Manchester Spurs had their noses in front for most of the way in a see-saw battle. They led 14-12, 28-26, and 42-40 at the end of the first three quarters.

 However, the Kingston Hummingbirds, the 2016 and 2018 winners, were always within striking distance and eventually rallied to draw level at the end of regulation.

It took two extra-time periods of seven minutes to decide the outcome, with the Hummingbirds holding a one-point advantage 62-61 after the first period, before falling apart during the last seven minutes, which allowed the Spurs to pull away for the win.

The Hummingbirds only have themselves to blame. Their shooting combination that played for almost the entire match, goal shooter Sabrina Spence and goal attack Shanice Beckford, combined to miss 16 shots, more than three times the five missed by the Spurs.

Beckford worked tirelessly for her game-high 44 goals from 51 attempts but the usually efficient Spence was a shadow of herself, netting just 19 of her 28 attempts.

Many of those missed shots came at crucial points when they had an opportunity to convert on a turnover and make a two-point gap plus the luxury of the next centre pass.

“I feel really bad because of how we worked, how we planned it,” admitted Winston Nevers, head coach of Kingston Hummingbirds. “It was going right and then our shooter started to make a lot of mistakes. There’s no way you can miss so many penalties right at the post, penalty must score, so our shooting let us down.

“I feel really bad because the team was champions before and by taking the team over I expected to win. By not doing it today I feel a bit guilty, I really wanted them to take it.”

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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