-And what happened?
/My Blueberry Nights
Beep-beep-beep. Should I smash it? Nah. Five more. Beep-beep. A’ight, let’s roll. Naked feet hit the ground. Morning to myself, everyone else is sleeping. Except some people outside. There is always someone awake before me in Klagenfurt. Norm. Take a sip of water. Two, three sips. Rule of the morning – get’s your system going. Time for shower and waking up the girls. Have never met no one at the showers, but some guys are walking from them. At least it looks like it.
Most of the youth is already up at the time I get back to the tents. Good. Not so much fuss. After some time we are ready to get some breakfast. Same as yesterday, but with some hot beverage it goes down. We are overall disappointed at the fact that it is only possible to get one “portion” (2-3 small pieces) of pancakes per person. They could just keep their bread rolls and make some more pancakes instead. Oh well.
Go down, get ready, take the bus. Boom – St. Ruprecht 1. We meet the freedom early at nine-thirty in the morning.
Game 3: HellGirls versus “Stuttgart Eagles” (USA)
This is the game that decides if Hellgirls go out of the group for quarters or will play for fifth place. We meet a team of eight people. Aggressive as are all USA teams I have seen here at Klagenfurt. Game will be tough and rough. Await no mercy. They come in clanging and banging from second one.
As awaited – pit bull game. On our every advance we get hands on us. The problem is – refs don’t show particular interest in this kind of game. This indicates that this will be one of the “let them fight” games. Fair enough, our defense is clean enough, I am hoping to get them “fouled out” as they only have eight players. Get some out, others can’t be as aggressive anymore. I bring this idea to the team – keep going, go through hands and hope that refs will whistle at least half of them. Well, this could’ve worked only if this game format wasn’t in favor for foul game… Eight minutes running time with full five fouls per person. Most we got out of this was one with four and another one with three, then couple two’s and one’s. One have to experience something like this to be able to counter it. Sadly, my coaching career had been too short.
For first half it worked in our favor that not only we could not score (or even go through), but also our opponents didn’t do nothing. We managed to score one layup so achieving two points, Eagles dropped a three pointer on us so finishing first quarter with three points. HellGirls could’ve accumulated more points, but missed all four free-throws. As I wrote already – free throws turned out a massive weakness.
2 to 3 after the first for Eagles.
Aggression continued also in second quarter, but HellGirls found some ways to get through and score some baskets. Sadly continued to miss free throws (three out of four missed for second quarter) and we couldn’t burn the difference as Eagles accumulated one basket more in second quarter. Luckily they weren’t shooting any good from the free-throw line today also and missed six out of six free-throws, that gave them just minimal advantage over us and we went in the half time with -2, 7 to 9 for Eagles.
They wanted it and they wanted it bad. We wanted it, but our offensive “freestyle” abilities didn’t allow us to advance. This quarter went down with 0 to 6 for Eagles as the birds locked down the HellGirls. On top of that we got two of our players injured and unable to continue the game. That happened when we started to get hang of the game.
First went down our number 63 with nasty slip. She sat down on her left leg, but right one stayed stretched to outside, out of the game situation one of the opponents were also falling and landed on the knee. In the moment that happened hot wave went throughout my body. First thought, please no tears in the knee. Thanks to all basketball gods – it was alright, just a hit with a knee in the ground. No tears, nothing.
Second was a bad landing and semi-turned ankle for our number 72, classic. Though as I feared – I won’t be able to use her for the next game also as ankle was worse. Once you stretch it – you’re done for that day for sure till it heals up again.
Anyway, these injuries hit us pretty bad and we went behind with 7 to 15 for Eagles.
That was pretty much it. As we could not foul out the opponents and use our advantage of more players in this game mode, everything added up. We were able to get four to four in this quarter, but not to get back those lost eight points. This game was something to remember in case meeting something like this in future. This game also showed our inability to attack aggressive defense properly. Girls have to get better dribbling and passing skills to be able more easily and with less stress to advance over the field. Make less mistakes in passing. Smarter positioning to open up defense for better penetration possibilities. Aaaand free-throws. As they say it – if you can’t win the game, you can learn from it. We went down with 11 to 19 with Stuttgart Eagles flying high to quarter finals. Still, this game showed many things that we must add to our arsenal to be able to compete next time or with other teams like this.
HellGirls now had to get ready for the game at 16:30 against Bad Aibling Fireballs. So we got some time to waste and went back to quarters to go watch some basketball/volleyball at Players Town and Pädag gyms, then get some food after for lunch and rest a bit before the upcoming game. We wouldn’t finish last, but we wanted to take the fifth place instead of sixth and we should be able to do it!
I will skip over this time as I could not describe what was happening at the games anyway. It was just spectacular. We once again loaded gyms with our kids and got really amazing atmosphere there. This is like taking pictures of the nature – like mountains. You can never capture that beauty and magnificence in a picture. Same way I won’t be able to describe this happening and feelings in them. More over – everyone has their own. Let’s just continue.
Game 4: HellGirls versus “Bad Aibling Fireballs” (DE)
This was a special game. One that, if not all, then most of the people would remember long after it was played. Game that reminds one team of hard earned victory and the other one of unforgivable rules and chance that slipped out of the finger tips despite giving your last efforts. Game that makes teams stronger. Game of basketball and as always – there is one winner and one loser.
Despite the positive attitude we had by going in against Fireballs, my expectations lowered once I met and spoke with the coach before the game. He had it. He was in the craft for some time and he had to be respected to had done his homework and preparations. Instead of me. Even Latvian Men’s team is known for their adventurous playing style. That’s also something that had developed by HellGirls as mentioned before. “We just get offense.” Then there comes a time where you meet a prepared and disciplined team like this.
Fireballs started strong by strong penetration and receiving two shots two times in first two minutes. As used in women basketball, scores are usually pretty low in average game, so every point matters. They made three out of four shots and added an layup on top of it till minute three leading by five to nil. Our number 15 received some chance for free-throws, but missed both. They put up another bucket, HellGirls answered with their first two points. Basket for Fireballs, missed free-throws from HellGirls. Some back and forth.
HellGirls had some hard time getting over the field through full-court press. Despite all my trys to get them understand basics in countering it, it didn’t happen till the middle of third quarter. I sensed some lack in basketball jargon. Another thing to be worked on in pre-season. For now we had to suck up and learn, but learning means – getting shot at. HellGirls came off the field after the first with eight point deficit. 4 to 12 for Fireballs.
If we wanted to stay in the game we had to score and avoid easy points. If the girls from Bad Aibling wanted to score, we had to make their job difficult. Bad shots, push them out, slow their progression. At some extent it started to show in second quarter. Unfortunately for us, we got some fouls and opponents were good at shooting ball from free-throw line. There was a progress though, we managed to play six to six and start to get hang of countering their full-court press. 10 to 18 for Fireballs at half-time.
This is where the tables changed. Fighting spirit came back with full power and girls showed why we had to shorten the name from Hellenen to Hell. Giving up was no option. Work in defense was better than previous half and offense didn’t struggle anymore. They had grasped some of the countering technique against full-court man-to-man press and could advance down the field more easily. That meant also more buckets in the offense and with buckets comes confidence. Needless to say – this game I went for victory. That meant sitting the ones that did the job poorly or made mistakes. In normal season games you would never find something like this from my side, but I had the chance to get some things done here and see the reactions.
So, I went full competitive sport mode. This is also what we would see in the first teams of the club in the future. Oooh, here we had to work to do also. With winning a league previously, assuming – not even trying hard, came a price. No bench presence and no understanding of what it means. If you don’t play on the field, if you make mistakes, if your skill level today is not enough – you play from the bench. That’s competitive sport. You get your teammates going, you help them in defense, call to turn around, help to pass. When there is a break or timeout – you let them sit, get them water, towel – so they can focus on coaching. You high-five them coming down the field and encourage when going on. Yes, you are not on the field, but you are still here and you are in the team. Today isn’t your day, but it will never be if you don’t get that bench presence going. Now, this was a bit off, but had to be explained. Let’s see how many read these lines.
Competitive mode also meant to get on the field best possible combination of players to counter opponents. At third I got it quite right and almost got switches in order. Not perfect, but good enough to fight for the W. HellGirls won the third quarter with eleven to six and came down the field after third with 21 to 24 for Fireballs. Race was on.
“To win the big games you must get to the Free Throw line, and then you must make them.”
– Rick Majerus
There are two things that win games – lay-ups and free-throws. Well, we had the first one going for us. Up to this point the opponents had proven that they are better free-throw shooters than we are. So we made lay-ups. Up to minute seven HellGirls managed to gain the lead for the first time in the game. After good run in offense and strong defense we went up to 27 to 26. Then minute seven hit us. Free-throws. Opponents got two and made both going 27 to 28 for Fireballs. Then we received two short before minute eight. Both missed. I was hoping for at least one, to get it at zero, but oh well… Then the next goal was to get D settled in and get a lay-up to get plus one. Boom. Hand slipped from a HellGirl and Fireballs were on the free-throw line again. First one went in. 27 to 29 for Fireballs. To myself I thought – okay, we can get this done, get the ball, we got about half a minute left, get a lay-up, overtime. Swish, second one in. We stand 27 to 30 with three behind. That was the moment I knew that we had to get a three-pointer, there was no other option. Up to this point girls had understood how to counter full-court press and ball went in, went to the other side and they stood spread out. After a few seconds looking for wholes shot went up, but bounced against rim. A half-centimeter here or there. That’s the game. Then luck happened. Ball went out from the opponents. I had to take a quick timeout. About 4-5 seconds left as we had no visible game clock.
Battling the past three games and half of this game – I just hoped that girls will get it right. I assigned throw-in, two pick makers, trick player behind the three-point shooter. It seemed that they got the drawing. They delivered. That was already a small victory for me. Pick down, roll out to other side, pick up to free-throw, run, pass, shot pulled up. It looked amazing. Then my heart stopped on heartbeat. I fell on the ground to see through legs if my eyes weren’t just playing games. Whistle made everyone silent right after the three-point shot went in. Nothing but net.
Nah, I had seen it right.
As our number 63, assigned to take the last shot, came out of the pick and over the three point line – small field confusion kicked in. Now, as I already explained, fields were smaller. Meaning – three point line ran into the side line at the wing. Despite that there was another field about 60-70 centimeters apart. Now, what I failed to predict in my drawing was that maybe I had to put the shot more up not at the wing. She simply oversaw the lines because of the habit of regular sized field, where three pointer runs down to baseline. As she turned heels went over the side line of this small field. Shot made, didn’t count. With three seconds left and a mild after shock – they failed to foul and we went down with 27 to 30 for Fireballs. Hurts. That’s basketball.
Thanks to this game HellGirls, under my coaching, now have a set play for baseline throw-in called “Over the Line”.
Well, that’s it folks. Then there was another fun evening with everyone at Players Town, next day early games, rushing to get everything packed and the way home. I won’t write here anymore about all the great fun we had there playing, watching, cheering and just enjoying the life. Some things have to be told not written. Remembered and shared at the dinner tables. Because nothing brings the good moments back as the voices of the tellers who were there and experienced all of this wonderful adventure called United World Games. Best memories are saved in the heart.