The Wesleyan Soldiers and the Lynx are Cayman’s latest champions on the court.
Both squads emerged winners for the first time in the Dominos Pizza Under-19 Basketball League, which staged its finals at the Camana Bay Arts and Recreation Center over the weekend. Soldiers capped off an unbeaten season in the boys division with a 73-65 win over the Wesleyan Griffins. The Lynx claimed the girls crown with a 56-51 victory over the Sparks.
Much of the credit for both triumphs rests in the coaching. Jonathan Powery, 23, spearheaded both Wesleyan sides alongside a large coaching staff featuring Bruce Reynolds, Shane Ebanks, Ron Profitt and Gonzalo McLaughlin among others. Powery said it was an honor to lead those squads to the finals.
“It’s such a great accomplishment,” Powery said. “I didn’t plan on it, it just happened. I wanted both teams in the finals and I know how hard they trained and practice. It’s a great accomplishment for them and I feel good about it.
“Going into this league, the Soldiers were the favorites to win in my mind. No one expected them to go undefeated and it wasn’t a goal for them this year. We worked hard in the preseason and it showed in the season because they were faster and sharper than the other teams. It’s no surprise to me they won the title and they have plenty more years to go.”
The Soldiers never trailed in Saturday’s final, leading 24-22 at halftime before boosting their lead up to 11 points by the end of the third quarter. Finals and regular season Most Valuable Player Albis Amaya led the charge with 16 points and 17 rebounds for the winners. Arin Taylor scored 16 points, three 3-pointers and five assists, Juawon Ebanks contributed 14 points and five steals and Naithique Jackson added 13 points and five rebounds. Alex Thompson registered a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Griffins. Kameron Reynolds posted 16 points in a losing effort.
The win caps off a 2013 campaign that saw the Soldiers go 15-0 during the regular season before taking down the 7-8 Esso Blazers in the semi-finals, 91-49. For the 9-6 Griffins, they advanced to the final after a third place regular season finish and a 55-54 victory over the Wolves, the 2012 champions.
On the girls side, the 8-4 Lynx nabbed their title thanks to 39 points from Khailan O’Connor, with eight points and 13 rebounds coming from Amanda Stone. The 8-4 Sparks relied on 29 points and 25 rebounds from April Ebanks with Alessandra Hawkins adding nine points and six steals.
Coaching the winners was Denton Cole, who said the triumph is the culmination of a two-year journey.
“Guiding a team to a national championship is one of the most fulfilling emotions one can experience,” Cole said. “I gained a sense of accomplishment because I was able to analyze the talent pool of the club, identify our strengths and weaknesses and devise plans which ultimately led to success. We were in the finals last year as well and had to settle for second place. So it feels good to win the second time around.”