(L)Patrick Pemberton, formerly of Citylites; (R) SMA, the first basketball Knockout champs
(L)Patrick Pemberton, formerly of Citylites; (R) SMA, the first basketball Knockout champs

It should be well known by now that Dominica's inaugural 'national' basketball league was successfully run in 1966.

Segment A of Jump Ball's "Basketball Before Windsor Park: 1966-1971" which was published in July 2017 presented, without any fanfare, the first champions to emerge from Dominica's 'national' basketball competitions, more specifically the League and Knockout Champs.

However, it is important to beam the spotlight on those two teams, even in absentia, for being the first in Dominica's national basketball history to stand at the top of the award winners' podium. And that was more than five decades ago.

In setting the scene, it must be noted that the first roster for the 'national' league featured only four teams, all Roseau-based, competing for the championship honours at stake. Well, let's take a quick peek at those inaugural champions.

Citylites: 1st Basketball League Champions – In 1966 the Dominica Chronicle carried only five articles on basketball, and the story in the Saturday 11th June edition of the paper was captioned, "Citylites Win League Competition". That caption said it all!

Unfortunately, only one of a possible three league game-scores for Citylites was published, i.e. for a 34-31 victory over St. Mary's Academy (SMA). The other teams in that year's league were Argonauts and Limers.

The basketball article in the following weekend's edition of the paper, i.e. for Saturday 18th June, had noted "League champions Citylites have proved themselves to be the most mature team with players like Herbert Thomas, Severin Loblack, Arthurton [Atherton] Martin, Clem Severin and U. Pemberton." [Ought to have been Patrick Pemberton]. Patrick had scored 10 of Citylites' 34 points in their league match versus SMA.

St. Mary's Academy: 1st Knockout Champs – St. Mary's Academy boasting players such as George Daniel, Eddie Royer, Bernard 'Kiwi' Thomas, McFord Zamore and others, were crowned Knockout champions in Dominica's first ever basketball season, on 15th June 1966.

The "pupils", as they were sometimes referred to in the press, had blown out Limers 65-42 in the 'semis', and then avenged the defeat which they had suffered at the hands of Citylites by beating that "most mature team" 36-32 in an extremely low-scoring Finals, to proudly raise the glittering championship trophy nonetheless. The basketball article in the Saturday 22nd June 1966 issue of the bi-weekly Chronicle had been captioned simply, "S.M.A. Defeat Citylites".

1966 Into 1967: Citylites emerged runner-up in the 1966 Knockout championship, and in 1967 they were unable to defend their League Championship, passing the torch over to Atoms, one of the two new teams on the court that year.

1967 had also seen several members of Citylites in the persons of Severin Loblack, Atherton Martin, Patrick Pemberton, Clem Severin and Herbert Thomas being selected on to Dominica's first Island Team. However, 'Athie' and Clem, both members of the Swingin' Stars Orchestra then, had to be replaced on the team because of a clash with a tour of the band to St. Lucia. Athie subsequently left the State in August 1967 to pursue a 5-year university programme in the USA, and so was unavailable for local basketball for that period.

Citylites faded away at the end of the 1967 basketball season.

Meanwhile, in 1967 SMA, like their 1966 rivals Citylites, were unable to defend their knockout championship and witnessed the crowning of new arrivals Atoms who were capturing their second championship in only their first year.

SMA had lost to Citylites in their first 1967 Knockout match and played Limers for third place.

1967 had also seen SMA's star player, Bernard 'Kiwi' Thomas receiving one of the five All-Star Awards at the awards presentation, and the team being presented with a trophy for Displaying the Best All-Round Skill. That year Kiwi was also selected to and played magnificently on the Dominica Island Team in the latter's first set of engagements.

SMA In Succeeding 21 Years: St. Mary's Academy continued competing in the top Division of the 'national' league for some time beyond 1967, and with the introduction of a "Junior" or Second Division in 1969, the school also fielded teams in that lower division with SMA Sunsets winning back-to-back Division II Knockout Championships in 1970 and 1971.

The school also captured three basketball championships in the 1980s. They were DABA's 1983 Division II League Champions, the inaugural Secondary Schools Basketball Champions in the DABA and Sports Division-organised Secondary Schools Basketball League (1987), and DABA's first 16 & Under Basketball Champions (1988).

Jump Ball wishes the many retired Citylites and SMA players the very best.

Information presented above was sourced mainly from archived newspapers. Thanks to Yannick.