UNSTOPPABLE: Simon Blake produces one of his 24 kills during his game-high 29 points to lead Trinidad and Tobago past defending champions Bahamas in a five-set semi-final of the CAZOVA Championship Saturday night at the Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Revenge for T&T men

Hosts edge defending champs in semis

By Shammi Kowlessar

SIMON BLAKE was virtually unstoppable as Trinidad and Tobago’s men won an exciting and incident-filled five-setter Saturday night to advance to their third consecutive final of the Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championship at Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
The host country was involved in both gold-medal matches when the curtain fell on the seven-day tournament yesterday as the women had reached the final since Friday night. With the second semi-final encounter deadlocked at two sets all, T&T completely dominated the decider to gain revenge over Bahamas for defeating them in the title match two years ago in St Croix.
But the action on the court during the fifth set was overshadowed by what transpired off it. A dispute concerning the score when the set began close to midnight took over ten minutes to be sorted out. Not long after the resumption, a fight broke out in the crowd, and just before play got going again someone fainted. Twenty minutes or so elapsed between points this time, but T&T started over with a significant 9-3 advantage and cruised home 15-8.
The 2010 champs had failed to convert two game points at 24-22 and eventually lost the opening set 29-27. But they responded in admirable fashion and dominated the next two (25-22, 25-21). Defending champions usually don’t just roll over and the Bahamians certainly didn’t as they led virtually all the way to take the fourth 25-21.
Blake, who had led the way for T&T in their other three matches, was even more impressive than he had been when he notched 18 points the night before in a quarter-final win over Jamaica. The country’s leading beach volleyball player slammed 24 kills and had five service winners in his 29 points. Ryan Stewart and Marc Honore contributed 13 points each and skipper Nolan Tash (11) was the other T&T player in double figures. Captain Princtanique Wilson (17), Byron Ferguson (12) and Shedrick Forbes (ten) scored in double figures for the Bahamas.
The teams had nine blocked shots and six service winners each, but T&T led 62-57 on kills. It was the third time in a row that T&T had reached the final as before losing to Bahamas in the previous edition they captured their only title by beating the Bajans in 2010.
The Bajans, nine-times winners, whipped Curacao 25-18, 25-23, 25-19 to reach the title match for the 12th time.
This is only the 15th edition of the competition, which began as an annual tournament in 1991, but became a biennial event five years later.
The women’s final between Jamaica and four-time defending and five-time overall champs T&T followed the men’s gold-medal match last night. After upsetting the Bajan women in four sets during the group phase of the tournament a couple days earlier, Suriname proved it was no fluke and were more impressive this time as they trounced the six-time champs 25-12, 25-22, 25-15 in yesterday’s bronze medal match
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