By Staff Reporter
This past weekend, Kingswood College hosted the 13th edition of the Brian Baker water polo tournament. The tournament has become a favourite over the years, with 20 schools participating and more than 400 people, from players and coaches to parents and spectators, joining the festivities.
The tournament kicked off with hosts Kingswood College vs local rivals Woodridge College in a game that would see the hosts too strong for Woodridge with a final score of 14-2. The Brian Baker tournament includes many teams from the top water polo schools around South Africa, which always creates a spectacle for good water polo. The Kingswood 1st team later faced a very mobile and crafty St Annes team all the way from Hilton in the KZN; in a close encounter going right to the end, St Anne’s edged Kingswood to take the victory 9-8.
On day two, Makhanda turned up the heat, with temperatures reaching 39 degrees by midday. This did not stop play, as teams responded by applying pressure in the group stages. The Kingswood College 1st team proved to be a strong opponent against old rival Crawford Lonehill, winning their match 11-2. Later in the day, what could be described as the game of the day, the Kingswood College 1st team was up against a formidable Reddam Constantia side; going into the games as favourites, Reddam took the lead in the initial stages, at the halfway mark leading 4-1. With three minutes left on the clock, Kingswood had managed to edge Reddam 7-5 in a thrilling encounter, securing their spot in the Quarterfinals.
Day three arrived with the same intensity for all teams as nerves took charge in the playoff stages; the 2023 winners, St Stithains College, were up against a fit and resilient Clarendon Girls High School team. The Clarendon girls threw everything at the match, edging out St Stithians in a nail-biting encounter 12-11. Playing against Clarendon, Kingswood girls kept the game tight and fought to stay in the game until teammate Dominique de Jongh got injured in the 2nd Quarter. Clarendon managed to edge in front; while chasing the game in the dying minutes, Clarendon extended their lead, winning the game 12-7. The result would mean that Kingswood would have to enter the battlefield again in a playoff match for the 5th-8th position. Their opposition would be DSG, and this game would be labelled as the Makhanda derby by the super sports commentators, and it lived up to expectations.
DSG drew early blood, scoring first. However, the Kingswood girls returned the favour almost immediately. DSG was in control of the lead for extended periods until the 4th Quarter; with the school in full cheer, the Kingswood girls found their fight, goal by goal, bringing the game level with two minutes on the clock. A few moments of brilliance saw the Kingswood girls take the lead 11-9; DSG tried to recover, but Kingswood slowly ran down the clock to win the encounter.
The Semifinals started at 07:00 with Herschel Girls School from Cape Town vs Roedean Girls School from Gauteng. Herschel, who had previously managed to beat Roedean in the final at the Saints Stayer water polo tournament, continued that path, winning their encounter 7-4. The second semifinal was Reddam Constantia, who, despite losing a game to Kingswood College on day two, managed to be victorious in all their playoff games, securing them a place in the semifinals. They were up against Clarendon but proved too strong for them in the end, running away with a 13 – 8 victory. This paved the way for an all-Cape Town final.
Before the final got underway, Kingswood had one more game to play. 1st-time participants at the Brian Baker Reddam Bedfordview found themselves playing for a top 5 finish. An impressive performance by them as 1st-time participants. The game was slow and sluggish as teams started to show fatigue, players displaying minor niggles. Kingswood girls showed tremendous character, with two players out of contention due to injury, and the other nine players had to dig deep. At the final buzzer, the scores were level at 9-9. A penalty shoot-out commenced where Kingswood emerged victorious (6-5).
The final match of Brian Baker lived up to its expectations, with both teams showing their skill and ability. Herschel led in the start, but a never-say-die attitude from Reddam Constantia meant they were always in the game. The game stayed tight until the end, with Herschel engineering two scoring opportunities to win 14-11.
Official team placings:
- Reddam Constantia
- Reddam Bedfordview
- St Marys Waverly
- St Stithians
- St Annes
- St Dominics