On Friday night The Leith Honey Badgers played their first game of the season in a repeat of last years opener, taking on The West Lothian Wolves. Just sneaking off with the spoils last year, the Badgers sought a more dominant performance this time out in the start of the clubs second Lothian League campaign; hoping they could send the Wolves packing.
A largely unchanged team from last year has benefited from a pre-season together but with Air Lithuania on Long Haul to Aberdeen, the arrival gates have warmly welcomed Jonathon Sanchez into the squad with Friday marking the passionate and experienced Spaniards club debut.
A starting five of Andy, Mike, Mark, Jonathon and Fraz appeared a bid towards balance and composure with impact players on the bench, rather than move straight in with the most physical or speedy players available.
The coaches faith in new addition Sanchez was rewarded immediately as he slotted in two big 3 pointers in the opening minutes sending a confidence around the Badgers. Second term club president Kerracher swiftly followed Sanchez’s lead, impeaching the opposition party as he elected to take it right to the rack drifting through the team to then go up and under for 2. Seconds later Fraz was also flying Air Force One with a sweet fake and finish. Wolves nipped away but the badgers held firm and Dios Mios when del Torro Sanchez hit another three to make it 13-7 to the badgers, the Wolves were howling as Leith rattled through the quarter notching up four more unanswered points to finish it 17-7 Honey Badgers.
The second quarter came as a surprise to Leith as The Wolf pack emerged stronger and caught a changed line up off-guard. Some fantastic work from the opposition ball handlers helped the Wolves almost match Leiths first quarter haul as they dropped an impressive 15. Things may not have been working out great for The Badgers, however the team maintained the democratic on court ball movement and let it be known they still ‘Plato’ win by dropping 9 points, 7 attributed to Holden.
Halftime and it was just a 6 point lead for The Honey Badgers. However the psyche of a Honey Badger is a peculiar phenomena. Equal aggression and collective belief but with desire to just be in the moment, the spirited troops went back to approaching the game if it were a fresh start and began to take control as they had done in the 1st. Typically tenacious defending from Piotr and some shrewd steals from Farooq showed that while they started as subs, in the heat of battle there are no greater committed Badgers around. With these on court Public Enemy’s out to Shut Em Down and Graham now leading the bigs, the Wolves rarely got into the Badgers lair and only capitalised on difficult opportunities with some high percentage shooting.
It wasn’t just a improved defensive performance this quarter, Piotr finished well at the rim after cutting through the Wolves thanks to a great assist from Fraz, whilst Farooq torched em with a long range swish highlighting the best of the Badgers 14 points in the 3rd. It could have been more as Cobra Conner shepherded some fantastic ball movement, unselfishness and effort that just went shy of being money in the bank on a number of possessions as the Badgers had numerous more attempts in this Sterling effort. The 3rd ended 14-12 Badgers as they headed into the 4th with a 40-34 lead.
The Wolves roared out into the final quarter and looked to panic the Badgers but some typically Leith perseverance and resolve was on display as Holden and Sanchez held firm to take some big 3s and help increase the lead. Things got into a frenzy as the floor opened up but Leith picked their moments well with Fraz putting in after a big post move and Mike slotting in a hook shot then lay up from a nice give n go. The whistle blew and Leith had won the quarter (12-8) and took the match by ten points- 52-42, leading to celebration at getting off to a winning start against a spirited and relentless opposition.
However, the belief and ambition of The Honey Badgers was also evident with the talk of missed opportunities and the knowledge there is better to come echoing around The Badgers lair. Friday night, we certainly done enough but the squad all knows there is more to come, including regular scorer D. Gibson returning, some smarter substitutions and a typically higher %age in the paint. With some of the team wanting more from themselves, there is an opportunity to exorcise any demons as we look forward to facing a tough Midlothian Madness this Friday. This was the start to the league we wanted, a strong win but by no means are we the finished article. By continuing to work hard and maintain the passion and effort we posses the team has the goods and understanding to decide its own fate as the season progresses.
Wolves 7 – 17 Honey Badgers
Wolves 15 – 9 Honey Badgers
Wolves 12 – 14 Honey Badgers
Wolves 8 – 12 Honey Badgers
Wolves 42 – 52 Honey Badgers
J. Sanchez 15 points
M. Kerracher 12 points
M. Holden 10 points
F. Gibson 6 points
G. Watson 3 points
F. Shaukat 2 points
P. Brandis 2 points
A. Conner 2 points