In sports there is a saying that goes defending a championship is harder than winning one. The Shockwaves of JML International Ltd. are finding that out first hand.
The reigning champions of the Appleby Under 19 Basketball League are fighting to maintain a winning record. A week of games remain in the regular season before the two-week Christmas break. Heading into Tuesday’s match against the Esso Blazers at 6pm at the Sir Vassell John Hall at the University College of the Cayman Islands the Shockwaves already had three losses. They are third in the standings just ahead of the Reapers and a few games behind last year’s finalist the Wolves and Future Sports Club.
Shockwaves head coach Jonathan Powery, who also earned coach of the year honours in 2009, states the 2010 campaign had a rough start for his club.
“The hardest thing was getting on the same page as a team,” Powery said. “At the start of the season things were not great. But I feel like we’re playing a lot better basketball now. We’re focusing on each opponent and taking things one game at a time.”
The Shockwaves have had issues maintaining a winning form. The side lost to Future last Tuesday 64-58 but crushed the Reapers 89-67 last Sunday. Future took it to the Shockwaves behind stand-out showings from Jarrett Terry and Kadane Hall as the young men combined for 44 points, 30 rebounds and nine steals. Against the Reapers the defensive intensity was much better though star player Jamaal Miller had another brilliant game with 18 points, 15 rebounds and four steals.
A positive in those games were the play of Diego Smith, Keon Bodden and Cleve Stewart. Smith had 17 points, 14 rebounds and two steals against Future; Bodden had 11 points, four rebounds and two steals and Stewart had 11 rebounds, seven points and four assists. The trio followed that up last Sunday with Bodden leading all scorers with 29 points (with seven three-pointers), nine rebounds and five steals and Stewart notching 25 points, 10 rebounds and three assists (Smith had a quiet game with four points and eight rebounds). With those performances big men Smith (12.4ppg) and Stewart (11.7ppg) rose up the ranks from their top 15 spots in scoring.
The team stats however give some source to the Shockwaves’ struggles. The team has been lacklustre defensively, ranking in the middle of the league in points allowed and overall team defence (which is surprising considering Powery is a defensive-minded coach). The side’s biggest losses were to the Wolves (and their star group of Jevon Pierson, Oswald Prehay and Neith Rhinegold) by over 11 points on two occasions.
Then again their offence has been as good as advertised. They have scored the most points in the league (287) and have the league’s seventh leading scorer in Rashaad Powery-Saunds (averaging 16.1 points per game). On the whole points have flowed freely while Jordan Cacho recovered from injury. The multi-sport star has only played a handful of games this season and averages seven points a game. Powery, 20, states he is most impressed with Cacho’s return and pleased with the impact on the team’s record.
“We had a three game winning streak when he came back, which was great. He hasn’t lost nothing much on the court. He has shown enough on the mental side of the game. He knows the game well and he’s an asset for us.”
The Shockwaves have few chances left to rise higher than third in the standings. After the Esso match the last game of their regular season campaign is 9 January against a struggling John Gray High school side. Looking ahead to the playoffs Powery states he is most hyped about facing the team that hails from his home district of West Bay.
“We have a score to settle with Future. We lost to them by six points last time. In addition Alex Ebanks switched sides and joined them. He didn’t speak to me at the start of the season about it. I’m still surprised and shocked he left.”