Early game on Friday against a Pace team that held us to only 37 points in our last league meeting, but a nearly full bench missing only P Brandes meant a good opportunity to stretch the current winning streak to 2. Badgers in fact have only lost once in the league since January and are looking for a strong run in as the business end of the season approaches.
Pace utterly denied the post moves and drives, as they had so effectively in previous meetings, with Honeybadgers winning on both occasions but only scoring 37 and 44 in league and cup respectively. While never a threat to Fraz and G on the boards – the badgers bigs looking imperious in this respect – the Pace defence were clever in making sure that offensive boards were stifled and recycling was a low percentage affair, negating our advantage from the glass. Basketball is the truth though, and a team that denies hard in one area leaves a directly proportionate opportunity somewhere else as their focus is being spent. The question then is whether the opponent has the tactical sense to see this, the technical ability to execute the opportunity and the nerve to make it count.
Previously, as illustrated by the scorelines, the badgers have bludgeoned wins by sticking to their favoured approaches and allowing their quality to carry them over the line. This occasion, refreshingly, saw a more mature approach with some of our more regular all – action high scorers (Mike, Fraz, Scott, Dom for example) recognising that the way to a good performance required some sacrifice and teamwork, and they duly worked just as hard to give our spot up shooters the opportunity to get down to business.
Recognising that the way around this Pace defence was to shoot over it, the badgers speed merchants darted dived and distributed, spreading the floor and trusting the likes of J and Doug to go to work. While the pace collapsed on our swashbuckling guards and defence draining bigs, great movement and awareness led to some crispy passing and some beautiful looks that were gratifyingly put to good use by our mid / long range shooters. It’s important to recognise thought that our shooters were only allowed these looks because of the threat posed by the rest of the team inside. It doesn’t show on the teamsheet, but from seeing it first hand the majority of scorers will have had a teammate to thank for most of their buckets.
In the first quarter, the badgers laid out a trademark defence, limiting the opposition to 8 which is pretty much par for this hard working team. Difference was on the other end however, where the pace’s D was not set up to cope with the shooting touch of Doug and J who combined for 17 points in the first quarter – a devastating single handed 11 point quarter from J as the pace failed to find answers to Luque Sanchez’ Spanish inquisituion.
The Pace rallied from here, realising that clogging the paint wasn’t going to be enough to stop the Leithers, but as they tightened up on J and the Doc, they left gaps elsewhere, and there are no weak links in the Badgers team thesedays, as they found out with points raining in over the next 2 quarters from G-man, Scott, Dom, Holden, Mike and Fraz.
Key to the Badgers strong showing was tough D with good man switches, continually improving communication and fast hard D with Andy running the bench as well as the floor to keep legs fresh. Farooq switched in repeatedly, and everyone on the team is delighted to have him come on and lay down his hustle and newfound composure in those vital little 2 minute segments.
The remaining 3 quarters were 11-11, 7-9 and 12-12 showing just how tight this game could have been if we didn’t have so many options to call on. On this occasion the final score was 54 – 38 Honeybadgers, but more importantly a lesson to all- us included – that a team that has more than one dimension and the sense to use them is hard to stop.
Next up Lions, and almost the exact opposite kind of opponent. Do the honeybadgers have the weapons and the mentality to bring the series back to 1:1? Guess we’ll find out on Friday J
Stay tuned true believers…!
Doug – 19
Jonatan – 11
Fraz – 6
Mike, Scott, Mark – 4 (each!)
G, Dom – 3 (each!)