Welcome everybody to another season of Hellratz basketball. The team looks rested and feisty after a short break and ready to take on the challenges that await them in this shortened summer season. There’s no doubt the Hellratz surprised a lot of pundits during the long, arduous winter season, during which undershirts and in-game tracksuit pants abounded, but there will be no surprises this time around. Everybody knows what the Hellratz are about and the whole league will be out to knock them from their lofty perch.
Critically the front office has done a wonderful job of keeping the group together so we will be running it back as they say, with the same line-up that the loyal group of sideline-parents and disgruntled younger siblings in attendance against their will have come to know and love. By way of quick recap here is the unit on hand for round 1:
The Magic Man – Audacious, competitive. Never saw a shot he didn’t like, or couldn’t make.
The Big Fundamental – All foot-work and focus. Not afraid to put his body on the line for the Hellratz.
Baby-faced Assassin – Smoothest jump-shot in the comp. Heart rate oscillates between 55 and 57 bpm.
Smoov – Sideline parent favourite. Effective, unpredictable style. Hyper cool flowing hair.
Stretch – Intimidating length, calm and reliable. A feared inside presence.
Pocket Lightning – His age is a mystery. Legend has it not yet 5, but absolute electricity across the pine.
The Boss – Representative player and coach. She demands excellence and receives it.
The Prodigy – Assistant coach, mentor, hype-guy.
Milo – The protagonist of this story, and one of the junior squad members. Given the Hellratz rookie squad is under 10s Milo has a full 5 more seasons to compete at this level. He and Pocket Lightning are undoubtedly the future of this franchise and, pending injury and general disinterest, could form a special combination for years to come.
Well, the Deadly Dojo looked sharp in the warmups. Despite their legendary focus and professionalism, the Hellratz couldn’t help but take an envious look down the court. Really nice Dikembe-era Hawks-like uniforms, and multiple flash haircuts including undercuts, mini-mullets and arguably even a squirt or two of hair gel. The Hellratz unis are mining-industry orange interspersed inexplicably with multiple shades of blue. Yuck.
Smoov aside (whose style is irrepressible), top to bottom utilitarian haircuts under the Hellratz hoop. Deadly Dojo won the early instagram battle.
Once the ball was tipped (or gently passed in from the sideline as is the practice of our times) it was clear there is to be no season 2 hangover for the Hellratz. The Magic Man took over early, relentlessly dribbling this way and that through the entire Deadly Dojo squad, launching high arching bombs from all corners, delivering his signature ‘come and get it’ hand-gesture celebration. The Baby-Face Assassin, looking passive and possibly asleep swished everything he touched, involved team-mates with crisp passing and suffocated his man on defence.
When he wasn’t comparing heights with Milo (he has grown a little in the off season) Pocket Lightning was everywhere, leaving little tracks of fire behind him as he burned around the court, stealing, dribbling and generally terrorising everybody. Pocket Lightning’s signature moment came in the period shortly after the half time siren had sounded. Deadly Dojo’s power forward had not heard the siren, was delighted to see a wide open lane appear in front of him and dribbled apace towards the hoop. Pocket Lightning, giving up three quarters of a body length in height, pursued and harassed him for 15 seconds, achieving a held-ball while everybody else had already sat down for half-time water and Minecraft chat.
Interestingly, not content to rest on their season 1 success, The Boss and The Prodigy have implemented two significant tactical amendments to the summer game plan. Firstly, in the half court the Hellratz have adopted the legendary 90s Bulls-era triangle offence. However, the structure has been astutely modified to better suit the Hellratz style of play. Rather than a triangle they form more of a flattened squircle around the three point line which moves and oozes this way and that until somebody decides to jack up a shot. Borderline unstoppable.
Secondly the Hellratz have taken on a straight line Uruk-hai inspired defence, with devastating effect. They form a straight line, spread out across the width of the the court just their side of half-way. There they lie in wait for the opposition to dribble tentatively forward. As soon as the poor ball handler crosses that half-way line there is no going back. The Hellratz descend, hollering and waving their arms around, and amidst the ordered chaos the ball-handler is overwhelmed, generally flinging it to The Magic Man or Pocket Lightning who finish things off at the other end. It is like a half-court trap with more terror, and may revolutionize basketball.
Well, the second half was more one way traffic. The Big Fundamental took over as he usually does when energy begins to flag and discipline evaporates. Fundamentals deliver in the 39th minute as they do in the 1st. Jump shot, lay-up, jump shot, including a beautiful swish from 15 feet into the opponent’s hoop. The Big Fundamental was somewhat dismayed by his oversight but he needn’t have been, it was yet another glorious display of technique and focus.
Any opportunities that the Deadly Dojo briefly identified in the second half were hunted down by the prowling pair of Stretch and Smoov, and snuffed out by superior length and athleticism.
A final note on our protagonist. It would appear Milo has de-prioritised tucking his arms inside his singlet for warmth this season and is starting to deliver on his significant potential as a feared defensive stopper. His focus and increased confidence were notable, involving himself with timely passing and smothering, demonic efforts on the defensive end. Milo scored two baskets in his debut season and is hungry for more this summer. Based on what we saw in game one, Milo would be a strong overs bet and the future is bright.
Final score, Hellratz 33 – Deadly Dojo 10
Which shows length and switchability on the wings will beat sweet haircuts and classy uniforms every day of the week.
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