Cougars get red carpet

COACH Dario Saunders and his Charles W Saunders Cougars senior boys’ basketball team.

COACH Dario Saunders and his Charles W Saunders Cougars senior boys’ basketball team.

As of Friday, March 10, 2023


#Senior Sports Reporter

#THE Charles W Saunders School rolled out the red carpet on their school grounds yesterday as they celebrated the historic Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools’ basketball championship feat by their Cougars senior boys’ basketball team.

#The team, coached by Dario Saunders, clinched the title last month over their Baptist rivals Jordan Prince Williams Falcons before they went to the prestigious Hugh Campbell Basketball Classic, only to fall short in the pool championships to Grand Bahama’s St George’s Jaguars.

#The ceremony, presided by Rev Stephen Duncombe, the senior master of the high school, saw entertainment by the primary school, the cheerleaders and the band and there were speeches from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Bahamas Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention. But the most profound speech came from principal Anadell Thompson, who noted that Charles W Saunders has won numerous titles in softball, but they are now spreading their wings and expanding their territories. She noted that four weeks away in the battle of the Baptist schools, the Cougars finally did it as champions. But for her, it was four years of watching the team emerge from cellar dwellers to the top of the mountain.

#“Four years ago, I came to Charles W Saunders as the principal, our school was among the top in softball, but we were almost at the bottom in basketball at the BAISS level,” she recalled. “When I saw the boys’ basketball team, I was convinced that I should become a member of that team. “This was perhaps the worst team that I’ve ever seen. I remember during our first game against Prince Williams in 2019, our team was beaten by almost 100 points. Despite that, the boys continued to play. I realised then that they were courageous.”

#What was even more settling was the fact that Thompson said coach Saunders asked her to allow the team to play in the Hugh Campbell Tournament that year. She felt the coaches were on a path to cause her to lose her job.

#But to her surprise, Thompson said the boys played with heart and the rest was history. Over the past two years, she said she watched as the team grew tremendously, overcoming many obstacles, pain, hardships and distress to get to where they are now called champions. “This group started out as a team, but today, I can say they are now a family,” Thompson stated. “They not only won the BAISS championship, but went back in the Hugh Campbell Tournament and it to the final eight teams out of 26 teams,” she said. “I am a proud principal and I congratulate them.”

#Also present was Rev Dr Perry Cunningham, the president of the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools, who said he was delighted to celebrate with the champions.

#“I have been privileged to be a part of this association for a number of years,” he said, noting that he started in 1987. “So I’ve seen quite a bit happen during the time. The premier sporting event that we have in our association is not just the junior boys or senior girls or softball. “In this country, it’s always been basketball. And a school of this size with 15 private schools in our association and 11 of them dear to participate this year, for CW Saunders, among schools that are 100 years old, to be on top this year is a mark of distinction and achievement.”

#Cunningham, who went to eight schools before he graduated and served as an administrator in six schools, said he hopes to take away what he’s seen at Charles W Saunders and he hopes that he could implement some of that winning tradition when he goes back to the Nassau Christian Academy.

#Rev. Dr. Diana Francis, the chairman of the Baptist Board of Education, said she commends the Cougars, based on their history, to come from being slaughtered to be in a place to be the people who slaughtered is something to salute.

#“Quitters never win, but you showed us that you have the ability to never quit. Even though you lost many games, you showed them that inside of you is a Cougar mentality and that you were hungry for the victory and you didn’t back down,” said Francis, the pastor of First Baptist Church.

#“You didn’t sit back, but you showed us centres, you showed us forwards, you showed us guards that hard work, sacrifice, team work, excellence, athletic prowess, determination, discipline and endurance when you hold on and give it 100 percent, you will come out with the trophy. You will arise and emerge as a victor.”

#Bishop Carrington Pinder, the vice president at large of the Baptist Convention, speaking on behalf of national president Lloyd Smith in his absence, said he’s pleased to recognise the superstars who roared out of the Cougars’ den and left their mark not only in the Baptist community, but in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and beyond.

#“We are proud of you. We are proud of your achievements,” he said. “As I listened to principal Thompson’s report of how God has raised you from being the underdogs, the Bible says he that overcometh should inherit, not just some, but all things.

#Assistant director of sports Kerry Baker, a former basketball player, represented Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg. He attended the event along with sports officer Mario Ford. In his speech, he noted the importance of the student-athletes balancing their time with athletics and academics.

#“While you achieve your accomplishments in sports, academics must be paramount. There must be a balance,” said Baker, who noted that too many athletes are denied the opportunity to go on and further their education in college because they lack the medium between the two.

#Saunders, who was assisted by Edward Dean, said they appreciate all that was bestowed upon them for their accomplishments as they were presented with their trophies and they also received some special gifts from the National Baptist Convention before they were feted to lunch.

#“It’s humbling. As a small school, we’re not big in numbers, but there’s strength in our numbers,” he said. “We came together and with God along with us throughout the journey, who got the job done. This is only a team of grade 10 and 11 students, so the sky is still the limit for us.

#“We are not the hunted, so our focus has to be greater, but with God with us, we will persevere.”

#Nakero Brown, the most valuable player for the Cougars, said they were hoping to make it a double delight in winning the Hugh Campbell title as well, but despite falling short, he was still pleased with their overall effort. “We’re a family and we do everything together,” said the 6-foot, 6-inch, 18-year-old 11th grader. “We will be back. Hopefully we can do it all over again and win the two titles next year.”

#The other team members were Nathaniel Darling, Leroy Gray, John Joseph, Marcian Pickstock, Seth Rolle, Kyandre Sands, Emmanuel Smith, Dequan Strachan, Romiel Strachan, Treymon Wright, Raymone Woods and Omarlon Woodside.

#Former basketball player Mario Pickstock, the father of Marcian Pickstock, said he was so proud of the performance of the team.

#“They did well,” he insisted. “They did a good job this year, but they know they have to put in the work to do it again next year.”

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