BELIZE CITY–On Friday evening last, the girls of St. Catherine Academy (SCA) and the boys of St. John’s College (SJC) won the respective championships of the Central Zone high school basketball tournament, and with it the right to represent the Central Secondary Schools Sports Association (CSSSA) in the upcoming National Secondary Schools Sports Association (NSSSA) basketball championships this coming weekend in Belize City.
SCA girls had defeated Gwen Liz girls, 34-22, on Wednesday, December 3, in game 1 of their Central Zone championship series. Tricia Jefferies led SCA with 11 pts, while Kayla Bowden had 15 pts in a losing effort for Gwen Liz. However, contrary to the report released by the CSSSA, the boys finals game 1 was not completed on that Wednesday night, as the game had to be stopped due to rain. Therefore, game 1 of the boys’ zone championship series between SJC and Sadie Vernon Tech was replayed in its entirety on Thursday evening, December 4, at Bird’s Isle, with SJC blowing out Sadie Vernon, 80-55. Sadie Vernon’s Glency Lopez led all scorers with 33 pts in the loss; while SJC’s Dudley Erskine had 22 pts.
Game 2 of the female finals on Friday, December 5, was a low scoring affair, with SCA again prevailing, 15-11, to take the championship. Indy Dixon led SCA with 6 pts, and Kayla Bowden also had 6 pts for Gwen Liz.
In the male finals game 2 which followed on Friday night, Sadie Vernon made it interesting, taking an 8-point lead to end the first quarter, and holding on till near half-time when they were caught by SJC, who sported a 6-point lead, 46-40 at the half. It was an exciting game, with tremendous skills displayed on both sides; but in the end it was the superior depth of the SJC team that wore down the Sadie Vernon stars, Glency Lopez and Darnel Galvez; and SJC cruised to another blow-out win, 86-65. The outstanding SJC back-court duo of Dudley Erskine and Sydney Bradley were a thrilling match-up for Gwen Liz’s Glency Lopez and Darnel Galvez; but when SJC went to their bench, they maintained a level of skill and intensity which the Gwen Liz bench could not match. Dudley Erskine led SJC with 21 pts and Sydney Bradley had 16 pts along with a number of steals; while Sadie Vernon star Glency Lopez again led all scorers with 33 pts, the same number as he did in game 1, and teammate Darnel Galvez added 13 pts.
Despite the intensity of the game, we noticed a lot of warmth and camaraderie between members of the opposing teams after the last buzzer had sounded; and that held for both the female and male championship games.
As Sadie Vernon coach Darwin “Puppy” Leslie consoled and congratulated his players for their effort despite the loss, we asked Puppy what he had to say about the game. “The better team won,” he replied simply, betraying no bitterness in defeat. He soon moved over to congratulate and take pictures with a few of the SJC stars, some of whom, we later learned, he had also coached from childhood with the Belize Bank Bulldogs program.
In the awards ceremony following the games, SCA’s Tricia Jefferies was named Female MVP, and SJC’s Dudley Erskine the Male MVP of the tournament. Also, a special award for sportsmanship and team spirit, the Female Silent Hero Award was given to Armani Bradley of Gwen Lizarraga High School; and the Male Silent Hero Award went to Darnel Galvez of Sadie Vernon Technical.