Lynx eye glory next year

The Lynx came up just short in the recent Appleby U19 Girls basketball final. Yet that won’t stop from eyeing success next year.

According to their coach most intend to extend their skills to the women’s and U16 leagues.

‘Most of the girls are really young so they should play the U16 and U19 next year,’ said Lynx coach Wendy Manzanares.

‘In addition they will be playing in the women’s league as Coach Redver (Ebanks) recruited some for his women’s team (called the Women of Valour) and I asked three others to join my team.’

Manzanares plays with the Esso Blazettes, who now become the Home Gas Flames next year.

A good forward in her own right, Manzanares wants to push the U19 girls ahead and get them more playing time.

‘I won’t coach Home Gas next year as Daniel [Augustine] will return to our sidelines. But I just want to develop the skills the girls have and make them grow in basketball.

‘In my mind I’m just contributing where I can because I want to see women’s basketball develop even more in Cayman.’

The girls join a pair of teams with different mindsets going into next year. The Flames go in trying to erase the memory of a Blazettes team that could not get past Dionne Anglin and the Lady Heels.

Blazettes lost to the Lady Heels in the playoff stages of three separate competitions last year; namely the women’s league final, indoor women’s league final and the inaugural Women’s Cup.

Ebanks’ team, which played under sponsor name Welly’s Cool Spot, go in to 2010 trying to improve on its last place finish in the women’s league and first round knockout in the Women’s Cup.

With the women’s league weeks away Manzanares and her players are left to put their U19 campaign in perspective.

For most of October and December the Lynx had the momentum as being one of the best teams.

Eventually the club marched to a 7-2 mark with the league’s top defense (allowing a league-low 285 points) and nabbed the regular season crown.

With the level of talent and experience on the team the Lynx were primed to win the U19 league outright this year.

Letanya Thompson led the team in scoring (averaging just over 12 points a game), Annique Holness paced the club in rebounding (averaging 8.4 boards) and Amber Watson had the most steals (21), assists (8) and blocks (5).

All played together for at least two seasons and displayed much team chemistry.

However early foul trouble would doom their championship aspirations at the Arts and Recreation Centre at Camana Bay.

The result would be a 45-32 loss to a 5-4 Sparks team that fought hard the whole season.

Manzanares, who won coach of the year honours thanks her team’s regular season efforts, talked about her squad’s performance in the title game.

‘We had a strong performance considering the foul trouble. Remember we had like three players with three or more fouls in the first half.

‘If it was not for that fact the game would have been different. We had two close games with them (the Sparks) this season that were decided by less than five points.’

The Lynx beat the Sparks 35-32 in late October before the Sparks won 41-39 in mid-November. The Lynx took the season series with a 41-39 win in the season finale.

Stats-wise there were some positive showings for the Lynx last Monday. Top player Letanya Thompson had 11 points and six rebounds while Annique Holness had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Though most of the Lynx players were down after the loss Manzanares states they still found the Christmas spirit.

‘The girls were very disappointed as they looked forward to winning. But they were in good spirits since then.

‘I’m proud of their performance throughout the season. I feel a little disappointed with the outcome of the final but we were down the entire game but kept pushing on and playing hard. I’m so happy they didn’t give up.’

With teams often seeing changes during the off-season the Lynx might look different next season. Nevertheless Manzanares is upbeat about her side.

‘The teams were newly put-together this season and to me it was a great blend. I know teams change but the way I look at it new girls join every year and some advance real fast like Chloe Powery of the Monarchs (who won Most Improved Player).

‘She took them to great heights this season and the same could happen for us.’