The Hellratz started the match with 4 players, a classic Alpha move. In fact for a brief period there were more grandparents in attendance than players. Milo arrived 5th and so strolled directly into the starting 5 (after hugging his grandma).
Hellratz were without Stretch for this one, but with the Wyld Stallyns small, slashing line-ups the analytics probably would have pointed to extended rest for the lanky rim protector anyway. In his place we welcomed back Smilez, another junior member of the squad growing in confidence week by week. Don’t let the perpetual smile fool you, he is ready to do whatever is necessary to get a Hellratz W, including cuddling the opposition.
The most noteworthy aspect of the Stallyns unit in the early going was their coach. Some people might say his approach was somewhat more direct and forceful than is required for the world of under 10s basketball.. But those people would be losers. Coach Stallyn knows where he wants his squad to be and Coach Stallyn is prepared to make the aggressive, outlandish, arguably abusive public pronouncements required to get them there. Coach Stallyn was wearing red bike shorts under his other, also athletic shorts and a Woody Harrelson-esque tank top which suggested he had just come from his game, or was on his way there after dealing with the upstart Hellratz. Although I fear it was neither.
The Hellratz quickly established their groove, raining buckets on the Stallyns like there had been an explosion in a nearby bucket factory which caused many of those buckets to be flung into the air, only to shortly thereafter rain down on people standing around in the nearish vicinity.
Although I did not attend training this week in either a journalistic or ‘hanging around waiting for my son’ capacity, it is clear the theme of the week was pivot foot. One, two, sometimes seven times the Hellratz propped and pivoted, this way and that, flouting the three second rule, bamboozling the Stallyns. “Take it! Take the ball Keith!” Coach Stallyn would yell with increasing ferocity. But Keith could not take the ball. He slapped helplessly at air as Smoov and The Big Fundamental pivoted around, sometimes in a full circle, before making the perfect pass for The Magic Man or Pocket Lightning to finish in the lane.
Towards the end of the second half Milo found himself the recipient of one such pass; a crisp, wrist snapper from Smoov. In a classic example of Squircle Offence Milo was perfectly positioned somewhere towards the middle of the key with his back to the hoop.
He was wide. open.
In one smooth motion Milo spun around and caressed the ball into the air. Up, up it went with an atypical sideways rotation. The crowd gasped, Milo held his breath, Coach Stallyn yelled and then, just as it reached the climax of its journey, I am pretty sure the ball looked at me and winked before splashing through the twine.
Well, the roof of the stadium literally turned into confetti and tumbled down upon us all as the multiple grandmas roared in unison, the disgruntled siblings looked up from there ipads and smiled and even Coach Stallyn nodded with a you did good look of respect. The rest of the Ratz, intuitively understanding the gravity of the moment turned towards Milo and celebrated with him, The Big Fundamental even reaching down to give him a cuddle at the free throw line. Delightful stuff.
The second half saw the Stallyns increasingly ignore their coach’s carefully considered directives “Run! Make Space! Help him! Spread out! Run!”, and they did so to their detriment. Due to their lack of running, space making, helping, spreading and running the Hellratz ran riot. It must be said Milo missed several defensive assignments in the second half due to his skipping and double arm windmilling but he can be forgiven for this week only. He will need to quickly put that swish behind him and look to next week as the match-ups get tougher, and the coaching more nuanced.
One small postscript; in the dying stages, with the game well under control there was a moment of exasperation between The Baby Faced Assassin, not known for gesticulation or indignation, and Magic Man. Magic, dribbling at full speed on a fast break missed an opportunity to feed the ball to the Assassin for an easy lay-up and instead faded out of bounds and hurled the ball into the side of the backboard. Magic Man, to his credit, acknowledged his error, but this is something we will need to keep an eye on in coming days and months.
Final score, Hellratz 26 – Wyld Stallyns 10
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