Warriors fighting to bounce back

The Personnel 2000 Warriors are an elite side in Cayman basketball. The squad won their first division two championship last year and have shown they maintain the talent for a repeat.

Coming into this week the Warriors are ranked third in the 2011 men’s national basketball league. Put on by the Cayman Islands Basketball Association the red and black group are 4-3 with six teams in the competition.

One of the sides they are looking up to is team Charterland, who clobbered the Warriors by 30 odd points last Wednesday. The basketball association court off Eastern Avenue may have seen a one-sided contest but the skill level was high on both ends. Among the talented playmakers on display was Warriors starting point guard Brad Conolly.

The Cayman Brac native, who is in his first year on the team, states the Warriors have the skills to contend.

“This is my first year with the team. In fact the last time I played basketball was five years ago,” Conolly, 26, said. “The team lost a few players and I initially just wanted to take a stab at coaching and playing. It was an easy team to join because I knew the guys from before. I’m having an OK season.

“I’m the distributor not a scoring point guard. My job is to play defence and make it easier for my guys to score. Lately I’m stressed because with (2010 division two finals Most Valuable Player) Bruce Thompson out injured I have to take on more of a scoring role.

“On the whole we’re right where we expect to be. We’re doing alright. Our main player Bruce is down with a knee injury and we’re missing his firepower. He is slated to be back in two weeks in time for the playoffs. We miss him though the defence is holding people to a low amount of points.”

According to the last available standings, the statistics back up Conolly. Prior to last Wednesday’s blowout, the Warriors were the top defensive team allowing a league-low 161 points. Offensively the side was mediocre scoring 201 points. Interestingly Charterland came in to that match as the top offensive club with a league-high 311 points scored.

The loss to the undefeated 7-0 Charterland is the second straight defeat for the Warriors. They were beaten 64-60 by the Shockwaves back on 11 May. The Shockwaves, who are now in second place at 5-2, were guided by Michael Blackburn (16 points and nine rebounds). The force in that game for the Warriors was centre Darryl Paddyfoot who led all players with 23 points and 17 rebounds.

Paddyfoot, 20, states a number of players are keeping his squad among the best in the league.

“We’ve done much better than in that last game against Charterland,” Paddyfoot said. “We’re still in the top three and more than likely we’re going to the playoffs. I’m confident we have the team to get back to the title game. Bruce, Brad, Keevon and Naldo Douglas, Khalil Mellad, Jonathan Owens and I are the guys I know will take us to the championship. With Jonathan in particular he can light up teams from three. He can really blaze and burn people’s eyes out with his shooting.”

The Warriors play their last three regular season matches over the next three weeks. Their opponents are Future Sports Club (this Sunday 29 May), Ritz Carlton Lions (next Sunday 5 June) and Rock Hole Fire Ants (Sunday 12 June) at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre. Future are currently in fifth place while Rock Hole are fourth.

With Ritz having dropped out of the league and the Warriors earning an automatic victory, many players are confident in the side’s chances of a strong finish. Conolly, an Ogier corporate administrator, has gone as far to guarantee a winning record and finals berth.

“Our record may be 4-3 after losing two straight. We may have already won one of our three remaining games. But I’m telling you we will be 7-3 at the end. We’re not losing another game this season. I guarantee that. This last loss shows where we have to improve. We should improve and stay in the top three and I’m already looking forward to facing Shockwaves in the playoffs. I feel we can beat them. We’ll have a different approach from our last encounter.

“From there we expect Charterland in the final. We’ll see how that plays out when we have a full squad.”

Paddyfoot, who has played basketball at various levels in Cayman the last six years, echoed those feelings though he did not exactly back up Conolly’s guarantee.

“We have to take it one team at a time. It’s not a given we will blow out teams because anyone can beat us. But once those games are over with, from there we will look to the playoffs.”