In sports there are many examples where perfection comes at a price. Teams have marched through the majority of a season unblemished only to come up short of a championship.
In local spots the latest example of that comes via the Lady Wolves.
In spite of going unbeaten in its regular season, the Wolves crashed out of the 2011 national women’s league playoffs.
The side were dealt a two-match sweep by the Home Gas Flames, punctuated with a wild game two that saw the Wolves compete with four players for most of the contest.
The reason for the short bench is an intriguing one.
In game one leading scorer Cassianne Lawrence and top defender Eldisha Walton were suspended for four games for unsportsmanlike conduct towards the referees.
In addition Walton suffered a leg injury in the middle of that match and guard Melissa Smith was off-island.
Then in game two team captain Sheneka Moore fouled out before the second half.
Lady Wolves head coach Eckerd McField states the early post-season exit was disappointing and the team has only itself to blame.
“It didn’t surprise me we lost,” McField said. “We were short-handed with just four players. But I’m proud of the girls. They played through the whole game, especially when we went down in numbers. From the age of 16 years-old when I started playing in the national men’s league there has always been controversy with the officials. But there’s always something as a player you could do better.
“With the team they have to work at correcting their mistakes and then they can worry about the officials. We lost the second game by seven points (the final score was 61-54) and we made more than seven mistakes. We have to look at cleaning up our mistakes.”
The loss of Moore in the second game was a blow in more ways than one.
In addition to the fatigue factor, the East End native was a top rebounder for the side.
Indeed in game one she nabbed eight rebounds to go with five blocks and six points.
Moore did not comment on the team’s playoff loss, instead focusing on the two star players that got the Wolves through the regular season untouched.
“With Benecia Thompson it was a shock she ended up playing for us,” Moore said. “With the Lady Heels she impacted many games with her ability to make shots, go to the free-throw line and grab rebounds. She was a big asset to our team. She came in, did what I expected and met my level of expectations.
“Cassianne Lawrence now was the first woman from Cayman to make a name in basketball to me. She hadn’t trained for months after she came back from college in 2009, yet she demolished players in last year’s women’s league. She has natural ability and talent. She created plays for herself and the team. She was a good team player and her knowledge of the game was really up there.”
Both women excelled throughout the year. Lawrence was the league’s leading scorer averaging 24.6ppg and was fifth in rebounding with 11.9 boards per contest.
In game one she had a stellar performance with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.
Thompson meanwhile was fifth in scoring (15.5ppg) and second in rebounding (14.3rpg). In the playoffs she was the catalyst for the offence with 16 points, 24 rebounds and four steals in game one plus 25 points, 21 rebounds and three steals.
Interestingly coach McField, 29, has a wealth of experience on the sidelines.
In 2003 he coached in the Under-14 and U15 leagues and also coached primary school kids in the sport alongside the Department of Sports.
McField states that even though Thompson and Lawrence were prototypical anchors for the team he wished their results were different.
“The whole team played an important part. There’s no “I” in team. A lot of factors lead up to the leading scorer being the leading scorer. She was part of the real core of the team throughout the season along with Eldisha and Benecia. Eldisha in fact played great defence and was really helpful defensively. With Benecia she was simply excellent with rebounding and she had a couple of games this year with 20 rebounds.
“However it all could have played out a little better for me. I’m not looking to point fingers at anyone but ourselves. Our discipline was a big factor as it impacted our fitness and conditioning among other things. In the playoffs our only problem was we as a team had a lack of discipline and I saw where we were not as focused as we should be. We had a number of issues and mistakes that we could have corrected even throughout the regular season.”
The Lady Wolves have one last shot at post-season hardware however.
The Cayman Islands Basketball Association has introduced a third place trophy for 2011 and the Wolves will square off with the Silver Bullets in a best-of-three series. McField, a born-and-bred George Town resident with regional and international coaching certifications, states the team’s focus will be elsewhere.
“We were really looking forward to the finals. My philosophy is don’t look to blame someone else; look at what you did and reflect on that. We’re not really worried about the third place games. We’re kind of waiting until next year. We’ll play the games and we’re not going to roll over and take fourth place. We’re going to continue while looking forward to next year.”