Ready for Game 3

In this week’s edi­tion of On The Ball, NA­TION sports writer Justin Marville pre­views Game 3 of the No.1 Beauty Sup­plies and Beauty Ex­change Women’s bas­ket­ball fi­nals.

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Comment -

WELL IT ALL COMES down to this. I’ll be the first to ad­mit I didn’t see this se­ries go­ing three games, what with Pinelands los­ing one mean­ing­less game all year long be­fore these fi­nals en route to a truly dom­i­nant sea­son where they also cap­tured the knock­out ti­tle.

But women’s bas­ket­ball truly de­serves a win­ner­takes-all show­down on its big­gest stage after hav­ing to suf­fer through months of some very un­ap­peal­ing matchups.

And make no mis­take, Pre­ferred In­surance Bro­kers Pinelands and Lady Cougars are the best of what this sport has to of­fer, so we should be in for one heck of a ti­tle de­cider.

How we got here:

As I said be­fore I’m sur­prised we’re head­ing to a Game 3 con­sid­er­ing Pinelands’ dom­i­nance this sea­son along and the all­round tal­ent and depth of their ros­ter.

But Cougars have done a great job be­ing phys­i­cal with reign­ing league MVP Maria “Flow­ers” Cum­ber­batch, who is some­how av­er­ag­ing just 10.5 points on less than 17 per cent shoot­ing in these fi­nals thus far.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that Cougars have largely taken Cum­ber­batch and com­pany out of the open floor by own­ing the of­fen­sive glass and get­ting sev­eral sec­ond and third chance scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Of course it also helps to have the league’s best player in Toni Ather­ley.

But Pinelands coun­tered well in Game 2 by hav­ing one pri­mary de­fender deny­ing Ather­ley the ball be­fore send­ing a wave of play­ers at the na­tional cap­tain ev­ery time she puts the ball on the floor.

Their front-court was also bet­ter at keep­ing her, Jen­nifer JosephHack­ett and Tif­fany Thorpe off the boards, which in turn led to more tran­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for Cum­ber­batch, Tamisha Flatts, Sade Clarke and Lafita Wood as the game wore on.

Which leads us to...

How Pinelands can win:

Run, run and run some more.

I don’t think it’s a se­cret that the champs are at their best when Cum­ber­batch and Flatts are forc­ing the ac­tion in tran­si­tion to cre­ate havoc in the open floor.

And get­ting easy layups should fi­nally un­leash the speedy Cum­ber­batch, who is still go­ing to be needed to drain a cou­ple out­side jumpers when Pinelands set up in the half court.

But then again they re­ally shouldn’t be look­ing to play much half-court bas­ket­ball to be hon­est con­sid­er­ing Pinelands are so much faster and deeper than Cougars’ age­ing nu­cleus.

Again, that starts with end­ing pos­ses­sions by se­cur­ing the de­fen­sive re­bound, and Pinelands are well-equipped to do such with the mas­sive size ad­van­tage they pos­sess inside with the two Woods, Lat­ifa and Ani­cia, along with Kashera Corbin.

How Cougars can win:

Get more pro­duc­tion from their other two stars.

Pinelands have al­ready shown how they plan to de­fend Ather­ley, which means Joseph-hack­ett and Thorpe must look to be more of­fen­sive-minded con­sid­er­ing there aren’t any more re­al­is­tic scor­ing op­tions on Cougars out­side of Gil­lian Martin­dale.

And the op­por­tu­ni­ties are go­ing to be there for them to score as both Thorpe and JosephHack­ett have seen a lot easy one-on-one matchups with Pinelands’ defence fo­cused on throw­ing mul­ti­ple bod­ies at Ather­ley.

Part of the prob­lem is that Thorpe has had to sac­ri­fice a lot of her of­fence to bring up the ball so as not to wear out Ather­ley with those added ball­han­dling du­ties.

But Cougars can ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit by hav­ing Ather­ley “play the point” on a cou­ple pos­ses­sions so Pinelands won’t be able to deny her the bas­ket­ball so eas­ily.

Head coach Dex­ter Griffith could look at putting Joseph-hack­ett in a lot more pick-and­pop op­por­tu­ni­ties with Ather­ley and Thorpe as the pri­mary ball­han­dlers while de­ploy­ing Martin­dale and Wanda Small on the weak side to space the floor. Pre­dic­tion:

Pinelands in a twopos­ses­sion game.

It’s hard to bet against Ather­ley in a do-or­die con­test, but I don’t have much faith in her sup­port­ing cast to step up of­fen­sively if Pinelands are dis­ci­plined enough to ex­e­cute their suc­cess­ful game plan from Sun­day’s Game 2.

Once the Pine can clear the de­fen­sive glass then Cum­ber­batch and Flatts should be able to dic­tate this con­test in the open floor.

UN­LEASHED?: Cougars will need to get more tran­si­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for star guard Maria Cum­ber­batch. (Pic­ture by Jameel Springer.)

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