In the critically acclaimed cinematic exploration of the human condition “the animal”, protagonist Rob Schneider suffers disastrous injuries when his car crashes, and poignantly explodes several times before heartachingly landing on him. He is then forced to metamorphose through surgical procedures using animal parts in a plot device of genius proportions that renders this not only plausible, but the only possible course of action. As the film goes on to delicately probe the uncertainty of a world subtly changed by Schneider’s existence and interweave agonizing questions about what indeed makes us human, Schneider discovers that the wreckage and subsequent requisite changes to his being have made him ultimately stronger. As he ponders the use of the new and terrifying powers at his disposal, and indeed the right he has to hold these, we on the other hand can draw parallels at the close of the Honeybadgers first season, and more specifically their finishing game.
The razzle-dazzle roughnecks from the honest end of the city began the season without so much as a strip between them or a practice session, but took their attitude onto the court and tore through their early games. The only team for much of the season to give champions Jags a scare, only losing to a long 3 in the dying seconds, and the team to raise the bar in scoring and hold this for the 1st half of the season, this outfit had cocked a leg on the lampposts of Lothian basketball, and people were taking notice.
The result of this attention was a real focus from teams on how to slow the honeybadgers down, and it became clear in the second half of the season that there were ways to limit our offence. Unable to ply their trade in raw bball, the Honeybadgers faltered in a number of games, scoring only in the twenties and subsequently losing.
Towards the end of the season however, this particular animal has been on the operating table and some pretty serious additions have been made to the offensive machine. A good display last time out against a Steel team above us in the league showed much promise, but was this a good night at the office, or had a new animal emerged?
Friday saw the Honeybadgers taking on Pleasance pace in the late tip. The badgers however were struggling for numbers with Mike and G on planned leave and Farooq called away to attend a shindig darn sarf. This left 6 badgers on the teamsheet, and only Fraz and Mark as fulltime forwards. Graham and Mike had combined for 22 points last time out, so with offence very much the focus of the badgers resurgence, this left questions to be answered.
The game started at a good trot, and immediately the rejuvenated offence took charge. A couple of early sighters didn’t drop, but it was clear that fear had been banished from the badgers vanguard. Both teams started out with 4 points from their respective number 6s, but it was Doc Gibson of Leith that stretched his legs playing comfortably out of position in the post, finishing the quarter with 6, ably aided with another 5 from Minda. Badgers take quarter one 13-8, and look like they’re just getting warm.
If the first quarter was encouraging, the second was a diagram of what we’ve looked to do at the end of the season, and what’s going to make us impossible to stop next year. The Badgers scored another 13 in the 2nd quarter, against 10 from the Pace, but the scoresheet tells the real story. With big points from 2 players in the first period, opponents are obviously going to try shutting the scorers down. In the past this has been successful, and we’ve struggled. Well, not any more. It might be a coincidence that Rob Schneider thinks his powers in the aforementioned piece of celluloid artistry come from “badger milk” – but already having all the badger we need, the changes to this animal have come from hard work, team vision and drive. Fraz was like a singularity in Nylon all through the game, repeatedly shrugging off the attentions of up to 3 opponents to tear down rebounds, and then sucking up to 4 players into his vortex, (I don’t think even Shaq got quadrouple teamed!!) leaving the rest of the team virtually unguarded for the subsequent recycling. The Leithers found good spaces, kept moving the ball, and worked hard to find the very best options rather than the first good one. As a result, for the first time in time in the teams history, all 5 players on the court delivered points this quarter. There simply is no defence against that.
Halftime – Honeybadgers 26 Pace 18
Third quarters have been tight all season. Teams get a rest at halftime, reconfigure their defence and come out guarding hard. This was again the story, but the Honeybadgers, despite the ongoing evolution will always be able to go back to their nasty badass roots, and not many teams can out defend ours when it gets gritty. Evidence of this was the Gibson turnbuckle tagteam – Mark passed the backdoor drive on to Fraz who tied him up, only for Doug to come all the way across and complete a trio of bodies wrestling on their knees and backs for the ball. It was like watching a gazelle going down on the discovery channel – with the same inevitability in the result. Add to this an extremely one-sided block count and you could see that this was not the game Pleasance wanted to be in. The pace defence tried to stifle all the obvious threats, but every problem is an opportunity in drag, and the team offence meant that we were always finding good options and getting makes. In these situations old heads often beat fast feet, and coach took this lesson, making up half of the points for the quarter from some excellent team passing. Net result; a lower points tally of 8 this quarter, but with only 6 from the Pace it kept us firmly in the driving seat.
Honeybadgers 34 – Pace 24
Aware of the score and having experienced the dangers of a pressing team with nothing to lose, the Leith brief this quarter was to look after the ball under the guaranteed imminent pressure, and to score, thus making the chase that much harder. Piotr’s appetite on defence was insatiable, not allowing the Pace to get the rhythm they so desperately needed and Andy continued to show why he’s the real deal, looking after the rock and minimising risk when his team needed it most (in front of a bumper home crowd!). The Pace could not find a way to disrupt the offence, with our guards in particular doing a spectacular job of keeping us in control of the ball, and using the clock. Pace put their guard out to hassle the ball hard in an attempt to force the issue, but when we need him to, Tijusas produces, and he showed a steely reserve under real pressure to keep the ball safe, drawing 4 fouls in the closing minutes earning us fresh shotclocks and successful trips to the line. Once again, an excellent spread, with 4 players contributing 2 points each saw this quarter out 8-8 with Pace throwing absolutely everything they had at us. The teams performance on the night was ice cold from the start of the 2nd quarter. We didn’t do anything clever, and the highlights would all have been pretty straightforward, but this new animal that is emerging has little interest in preening and crowing. This was a hunt, followed by a mauling and then the kill. No mess. No fuss. Just getting it done.
Final score 42- 32
Like Rob Schneider, we’ve been forced through adversity to change. But like him, we’re not coming back as good as new – we’re coming out better. We’ll always be honeybadgers. But now we’re even more.