Flames burning to shine again

The Home Gas Flames will go down as one of the great sports stories of 2011. Yet Cayman’s newest women’s basketball champions are down playing the idea of reaching similar heights next season.

Home Gas etched its name in the history books recently by defeating the reigning champions the Dominos Lady Heels. The Flames burned Dominos in a best-of-three finals for the first title in team history. By contrast Dominos have won four titles in the last seven years. The star for Home Gas was La-Torae Nixon, 13, who earned Finals Most Valuable Player.

Oddly enough, none of the Flames are running with the idea of being repeat champions next year. Among them is guard Lauren Keller, who hails from Philadelphia. Keller states she can only see more success if the team sticks together in the coming months.

“I definitely see more titles for us,” Keller said. “We’re starting to mould together. The coaches were great, La-Torae was unbelievably great as a teenager and we didn’t quit as a team. If we stick together there can be more titles in the future. Once we’re done celebrating this championship, then we’ll talk about next season and a repeat.”

Another player with a similar sentiment is team captain Wendy Manzanares. This year’s title run was an especially traumatic one, considering her sister passed away during the finals. Manzanares, who suffered a leg injury mid-way through game three, kept her focus on this season’s accomplishments.

“I was confident that we would not go down easy to the defending champions Lady Heels,” Manzanares said. “I felt we could have placed higher in the regular season standings but in the end what matters is that we worked hard and still won the finals. Our team as a whole had a decent season. We have a good team with a great combination of players in various positions. I must add that our team bench was an asset with a host of great players.

“This league has been a truly exciting one, as we anticipated, with the mixture of talent spread across teams. It was not obvious who was going to make it to finals as everyone had to played their hearts out to get that chance. Personally, my season was off to a slow start but eventually picked up. I am grateful for the opportunity as team captain to be able to step up as a team leader when needed as well as assist our coaches from a coaching standpoint whenever I could.”

For head coach Ovaine Monteith the championship is his first on the sidelines. Though he won several titles ages ago with the Tarheels men’s basketball team, Monteith states this year’s run ranks up there among his greatest.

“I’m a level one coach and the championship validates me as a coach. It was great and I like coaching now because I’m finding I benefit more from giving my time. We’re not thinking of any repeat for right now. Long as we execute as a team, we’ll see how it goes. I’m not too concerned what the other teams are doing. We have to concentrate on our team doing the little things well.”