Leith Honey Badgers took on Midlothian Madness on Friday night and it was nail biting stuff. Thankfully that was before the match got rolling, as the Badgers showed up late and those present had to take to the court before coach Holden and a couple of others were even in the building!
Perhaps a bit unsettled, the beginning provided little of note. Both teams didn’t get into a flow and despite being familiar with the opposition somehow spent the early stages sizing one another up. Madness took first blood and it wasn’t until a few minutes in that Leith put numbers on the board with Gibson mopping up nicely then Kerracher converting a reversal and drawing the foul. Sadly for the club prez his missed free throw was a sign of things to come as he went just 1 of 7 from the line on his way to a return of 9.
Kerrachers relatively quiet game was of little significance though, as The Badgers continued their recent form of putting in team performances by spreading the points and danger across the squad.
Point guard Hernandez wasn’t shy to attack the basket however was equally comfortable passing and keeping safe possession. The recent additions decision making and smart handles soaking up opposition pressure.
Madness looked the more dangerous of the two teams in the first quarter, quicker to the loose ball and generally pumped up. Their danger man Syme got his game going early with a couple of interceptions through his physical game as well as some smart finishing in traffic.
The Badgers kept to the zone defence in quarter 2, challenging the opposition to shoot. However fortune was on Leiths hands as Madness passed on the perimeter attempts and played through their guards attacking drives into the crowded paint. Credit where it’s due, a number of high caliber finishes came off but the Badgers defence was smart enough to limit the danger posed on a night where we were missing our 2 most physical players.
Badgers began to hit their stride as the the game moved into the second half. Aussie rules playing, ex-rapper McGookin dropped a nice line with 8 points from a couple of threes and a nice up and under lay up. Whilst the only bars he gets on these days might be public houses, he is surely due a few pints for his defensive efforts that matched his confident shooting.
It was neck and neck stuff through the third, with the game breaking into a open pick up affair that over time would have suited the opposition. However coach Holden pulled in the Badgers and got em back on track, ensuring they share the ball instead of run n gun.
In the fourth the game became stretched as some big 3s from the Badgers got to the opposition. J perhaps had the shot of the night, hitting a 3 in the grill of his opposite number. However Scott wasn’t shabby either with a nice hesitation move before taking it to to the rack.
In the dying minutes Connor iced his 2 shots as the line comfortably to ensure the game was now out of sight. However just to make sure there was to be no comeback, Fraz put up the block of the night slapping the oppositions attempted lay up back off the board and away. Somehow the ref called a foul to the disbelief of the HoneyBadgers bench. Maybe it was the ghost off the Bball gods passed or the spirit of Ron Artest but when the free throws went up a gust of ‘hell no’ blew through Westwoods as both shots strayed off and clunked in and out the iron. Ball don’t lie!
The match ended 41-30 in favour of the HoneyBadgers to make it 3 in a row over the Madness and set us up nicely for a big game against 47s on Friday. The match was neck and neck til the 4th and it was consistency, team play, effort and cool heads that saw us across the line. It’s good to play on the winning team but it’s even better when you really play as a team. The points, praise and
performance was attributed equally to all Honey Badgers on Friday, surely filling the team with confidence as the season progresses.
Leith Honey Badgers 41 – Midlothian Madness 30
Scorers: Mike 9, Fraz 4, Abi 6, Scott 7, Andy 2, Mark 2, Chris 8, Jonathon 3
Leith had been working hard recently after the worst run in the clubs short history and two good recent performances have helped feed the faint embers of belief. Training has been competitive and selection is becoming a headache that some coaches would love to have. Wolves have been having a similarly patchy spell so the stage was set for a test of preparation and determination.
The first quarter felt tight with little between the teams so it was a pleasant surprise that Leith found themselves ahead. Wolves 4 – 7 Honeybadgers.
Improvements all round were there to see – fewer turnovers and less decision making in the margins was evident meaning the Badgers earned the right to compete on an even playing field. This removed from the equation meant that a contest of attacking and defending would decide the game. Leith showed its teeth with an array of offensive options, cutting, driving, posting and shooting in response to the defence in front of them. Better outside shooting this week saw 9 points from downtown but the majority of the offensive work came from intelligent penetration when the D offered it and fast break execution, particularly from Deatch & El Prez. With Chris, G and Fraz constantly menacing every rebound the rest of the team had confidence to put up the good shots when they presented themselves. J showed his honeybadger blood digging deep to put in great hustle despite full on manflu, and Ian came on to equal his career high points tally, breaking out the jets after a beautiful turnover feed from Cobra. Snake hands wasn’t done there though, despite being run ragged on D he threaded the needle, reversing a bounce pass through the entire defence for a highlight layup conversion Steph Curry would be proud of.
The game wasn’t going to be won on highlights though, as a contender for play of the season from Deatch looked beautiful as he ran the floor and flipped the no look over the shoulder pass, but against all odds the follow from Fraz defied physics to rim out. A missed dunk attempt from El Prez (plenty of air but coming back off the back of the rim) followed keeping his tally to 18 for the night but thankfully we weren’t relying on the highlights as the basics were being executed well. Vast improvements in defence and rebounding coupled with slowly re-emerging offence worked together to push the Badgers to a 45 – 20 final score.
In truth the Wolves never felt out of the game and the final score is more a reflection of Leith consistently doing things well than a gulf between the teams. Week off next Friday, then the fast & aggressive madness team but two hard weeks training before that. Baby steps on the journey back badgers but plenty of marching ahead.
East Lothian Peregrines 50
Leith Honey Badgers 46
Leith Honey Badgers faced up to the Peregrines on Friday, off the back of a recent 1 point win against the Dunfermline Steel. Hardly in crisis, yet this year things has been a little clunky on court for the Badgers but over the past few weeks through effort and smarts the Honey Badgers have started to really click again. Peregrines got the win in game 1 this season where club standout Doug Gibson had his arm broken in a contentious encounter. This match provided the opportunity to shift the focus on basketball and to play hard against a physical opponent.
The Badgers picked up the Peregrines man for man from the off, with the Peregrines settling into a zone defence. It was Peregrines D that proved more effective as they halted the Badgers in the opening minutes whilst putting in 6 points through some nice shots and strong rebounding. Missing the last game, El Prez sought to make an impact and opened the Badgers account with a strong inside move and finish. Steel hit back, however the Badgers sensed there were chinks in the opposition’s armour, so no surprises when Holden replied with a nice jumper for 2. Badgers continued to drop some more buckets with drives in the open court providing the biggest openings but Peregrines were efficient in their approach, and their high percentage shooting and great post work from their main man Sidlausnos lead them into the second with an 18-10 lead.
Scott ran the point with ease, always alert to pick the passes and safe with the rock in his hands. His vision started some nice moves inside whilst as the seconds ticked away his confidence grew to take it to the rack, drawing fouls on the way. Amidst some nice individual moves and improved passing, It was really hustle and intensity that was characterising the team’s performance. The Badgers were standing up to a strong Peregrines and never giving an inch. With little between the teams at this stage, better 3 point shooting helped the Peregrines take the quarter by 1 in a match that was swaying back and forth. Peregrines 29-20 Badgers.
In the 3rd the men from Leith kept momentum on their side, going at the Peregrines at any given chance. With the offence flowing, the Badgers knew they needed to halt the Peregrines scoring to chip away at the margin. McGookin relished the task, ripping the boards from larger opposition and making a big block on his opposite number. The refs acknowledged a number of illegal screens from the Peregrines but the Badgers need to play smarter and go through them in future If they want to get the fouls. However it was generally hard but fair and with the inside closed down, the Peregrines nice shooting kept them active, including a couple of big 3 pointers in crucial moments. The Badgers took the quarter 13-12, Peregrines 42 -33 Badgers.
All hell broke loose in the 4th as the game shifted up a notch. With a lead to chase and perhaps less pressure, the Badgers seem free in their approach as great ball movement led to baskets and an aggressive approach gave us free throws we are now starting to hit! Forget the clock and scoreboard, we just want to play basketball and sometimes that mindset keeps us firing over when things haven’t been going our way. With the tempo raised we scored more and more but the game got ragged and both teams ended up in foul trouble. It wasn’t just the Badgers who made their shots as Peregrines proved money from the line. The Badgers emerged form the quarter 13-8 victors, but it’s the whole 32 minutes that counts and Peregrines gained the pink slip with a 50-46 W.
For the Leith Honey Badgers, it’s not back to the drawing board but back to the training ground. The effort was unquestionable and the boys know what to do, now we have to keep doing it at this level on Wednesdays and wait for the game opportunities to come. Of course, winning matters, that’s why we play in a league but it was no surprise the Honey Badgers left the court with a smile on their faces knowing we are back on the up and playing with passion. We have persevered for a couple of months and now it’s time for some sunshine on Leith.
Scorers: Mike 13, Banky 9, Fraz 9, Scott 8, Mark 2, Chris 2, Graham 2, Andy 1
Badgers are back…
The Honey Badgers have had a tough time of it of late. 4 losses in a row, the longest in club history, has led to some difficult conversations and a lot of soul searching . But as Harvey Dent before he turned into 2 face would say “the night is darkest before the dawn”.
…and you can’t keep a good badger down. Coach had a belter of a pregame speech, once again giving Al Pacino a run for his money (link below), calling on every player to step up and win their own individual battles.
We came out with energy… and Holden led by example, knocking down our first 5 points. Defence followed suit, Connor and J giving their men no room. Deatch and Shaukat kept things moving on offence raining 3’s to finish the quarter with 9 points between them and giving the home team a 9 point lead.
Early days though and the Steel aren’t in 3rd place by chance. They proved it behind their big man, number 15, who was immaculate from the line and poured in points all night.
The grind had begun. The 2nd and 3rd quarters were all about defence and composure. G worked tirelessly, boxing out his man and grabbing boards showing that inch by inch we could win this thing. Connor backed that up, a rock throughout, drawing on years of experience to keep the team settled, ready and motivated.
Through a difficult stretch in the 3rd Banky came up big, pulling down an offensive rebound and finishing when the Steel were on a run – a momentum changer the badgers sorely needed. If we were going to do this it was going to be as a team. Chris knocked down a 3 and our new addition Hernandez showed his pedigree, flat out scoring when he wanted to.
All that being said, Leith found themselves down by 3 with a minute on the clock in the 4th.
You know, we might not be the best team in the league but we’ve got heart and tonight we showed it.
We kept fighting for that inch, the ball came to Deatcher out of a time out who shot from the left side to drain a 3 and tie the game.
Great defence on the other end led to a drive and Hernandez being fouled.
Free throws were split for the 1 point lead and what followed was the longest 16 seconds of the badgers lives .
The margin for error was so small but somehow we held on for the win.
The Honey Badgers have had a tough time of it of late and we probably will have again but…
either we heal now as a team or die as individuals. that’s basketball guys, that’s all it is, now what are you going to do?
Honey Badgers 40
Just belt & braces in case we missed anyone- no training tonight (25 feb) as we’re hosting soldier bears for s friendly at Leith Academy.