THIS is the best possible start to the season for coach Michel Malbrook after Anse Etoile Stars retained the women’s Curtain-raiser title and Baya dethroned Premium Cobras for the men’s crown on Saturday at the Palais des Sports.
“It’s nice to win, but I still have a lot to work on with the two teams,” coach Malbrook told Sports Nation after Stars beat HotShots 71-32 and Baya survived a late scare to edge Cobras 78-77.
Malagasy Rakotomahadimby top-scored for the Stars with 19 points
“We have a lot of injuries and some players just don’t turn up for training. Hopefully we can put all that behind us and build on this first triumph,” added Malbrook.
Without suspended Tina Agathine, who won the volleyball Indian Ocean Club Championship title on Saturday with Arsu in Mauritius, and player of the year Myra Solin, HotShots were no match for the Stars who dominated throughout, winning all four quarters – 21-4, 17-9, 14-7 and 19-12.
Malagasy Miantratsiory Rakotomahadimby top-scored for the Stars with 19 points including two 3-pointers, while Lucia Souffe added 13 and captain Simone Malbrook got 12.
“It’s a nice win and I’m happy to get 19 points even though I don’t train regularly because of work commitment,” said 24-year-old Rakotomahadimby, who added that she would like to play for Seychelles if she gets the chance.
Baya, who had beaten Razors 92-44 in Friday’s rescheduled semifinal, were cruising until Baya’s Cupidon (right) and Cobras’ Simon Pusam fight for a reboundmidway through the third quarter when their 15-point lead shrank to one before the Cobras took the lead at 56-55 on a skipper Dominic Pillay lay-up to close a 22-6 run.
The Cobras had their biggest lead of four points at 66-62 and 73-69 on a Nigerian Michael Ohiero 3-point play with two minutes and 21 seconds (2:21) left, but they just could not hold on to it to win the match.
After Hendricks Denis put Baya in front again at 77-76 with 20.6 seconds left, James Beier equalised at 77-77 on one of two free-throws, but Denis then gave his team victory at 78-77 with a shot from the stripe.
Denis almost committed suicide when he threw an air-ball with 3.5 second left and although Beier caught the ball on a fast break, he could not beat the buzzer.
Captain Robert Léon had the hot hands for Baya with 27 points, while Michael Cupidon added 17 and Denis 12.
Cobras’ Ohiero, who made a stray pass late in the game with his team trailing, finished with a game-high 30 points while skipper Pillay added 19.