After successful title seasons, a pair of youth basketball teams have their sights on more trophies in 2013.
The Wolves and Comets won the 2012 Cayman Islands Basketball Association Under-19 Basketball League. Among the dominant figures was boys Most Valuable Player Peter Grant, 18, who is confident in another strong season this year.
“Most of the teams are lacking experience so I hope to see us back in the finals,” Grant said. “I don’t really think the league gives me enough of a challenge. Do I think I’m the best U19 player? Yes sir, I think so.
“In one-on-one situations, I don’t think you can find anyone that can stop me.”
The George Town native justified the bravado last year. Grant was the league’s regular season MVP after guiding the Wolves to an unbeaten 8-0 mark while being the competition’s top scorer (24.1 points per game), passer (5.9 assists per game) and free throw shooter (shooting 66.7 per cent from the free throw line).
Grant would cap it off with the Finals MVP, producing a season-high 39 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and six steals against 4-4 Wesleyan Christian Academy in a 90-73 victory. The win gave the Wolves three consecutive U19 championships.
On the girls side, the Comets featured Chloe Powery, 15, who took her side to a 5-4 mark after leading the league in scoring (28.7ppg), assists (4.2apg) and steals (39). Powery then had a Finals MVP performance against the 6-3 Lynx as she netted a game-high 28 points, 17 rebounds and two assists in a 52-48 victory.
Powery, who turns 16 in February, states her motivation was to play abroad.
“Looking back, I missed some training due to studying,” Powery said. “I want to continue getting my grades up so I can get out of here and play college ball in the US. That’s my dream.
“I’m playing next season for the U19 league, most likely I will not be in the U16 league. I’m hopeful for a repeat. We can dominate them if we practice more. We hardly practiced yet we performed good.”
Powery had help from Khailan O’Connor, who posted 10 points and eight rebounds, and Ashley Ebanks, who added eight points and 12 rebounds. All excelled under head coach Eckerd McField, whose Comets emerged U19 champs for the first time.
Their biggest challenge could again be the Lynx, under coach Denton Cole. Leading the charge is double-double threat April Ebanks, who nabbed 21 points, 28 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the finals. Tenisa Richards, 10 points and five rebounds, and Jade Wheeler, 13 rebounds, could also play major roles.
McField states based on how this season has progressed, no accolade is out of reach.
“I was the head coach with Peter Grant and Brandon Glasgow helping out a lot as assistant coaches on the coaching staff,” McField said. “As for the girls, the regular season doesn’t matter. It’s all about the playoffs and finals.
“All the time you see teams struggling to be at .500 and they turn on the switch. These girls showed me that this season.”
Wesleyan, behind head coach Jonathan Powery and assistant coach Shane Ebanks, nearly followed the Comets’ example after toppling 6-2 Bodden Town in the boys semi-finals. The West Bay outfit had star talent in Arin Taylor (21 points and four assists in the final), Albis Amaya (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Daniel Britton (10 points, 14 rebounds, four steals).
Wesleyan will be pressed to dethrone a black and green pack bringing back most of its roster. As Wolves head coach Duran ‘Trinni’ Whittaker states, more talent will come through the ranks.
“Against Wesleyan, we set our focus on defence with a lot of transition baskets,” Whittaker said. “We gave up a lot of easy points to Arin as Peter lapsed on defence but that’s him at times. Wesleyan did a great job and I give props to them for making the final. We did what we had to do.
“The season was good and I would like to see more teams next season. We’re always trying to keep a collection of players. Most of these Wolves came from the U16 team, which struggled. We want to keep as good a side as possible. I’m looking forward to 2013.
“If all of the teams get stronger in the offseason, there will probably be some tough ones. Most of my players got a year or two left to go in this. We just have to replace a few players like David Powery.”
While Grant will remain the focal point, the biggest adjustment figures to be the loss of Powery, 19. The Prospect native had 11 points and eight rebounds in the final and states he will miss this stage.
“It was my second straight title in my second year with the Wolves and definitely, I’m going to miss it,” Powery said. “But they got a productive core. It could be a real struggle to get another title and I hope they can keep the stride going in championship games every year. All you can do is aim for the best and hope for the best.
“Give credit to Wesleyan, who have increased in competitiveness the last few years. They challenged players to step up their game and guys like Juawon Ebanks can ball and take Wesleyan far. They did a good job at the beginning of the final. Once we secured the momentum, they couldn’t stop us.”
As Powery alludes to, the Wolves have depth on the roster. While Grant and Reuben Barnes (who had 10 points and nine rebounds in the final) figure to be stars, the supporting cast features talents like Daviel Foster, Joshua Ebanks-Brown and Michael Dawes. For role players like 6ft centre Stewart Watt, 17, confidence is in abundance.
“This is my first season with the Wolves and I just started basketball in the summer,” Watt said. “I think our season started too slow but we got it together once we got the momentum. Peter at point guard had vision and David did a very good job of hustling and getting our own rebounds back.
“If you see the Wolves next season, we will challenge again and it will be a four-peat. We can continue to secure championships again and again.”