Team Left Bank Kilkenny have endured an unusual start to the national basketball league, losing their opening four games while all the time playing well.
Early promise materialised into a win in Dublin on Saturday. At the start of the year the talk from the camp was all about consistency. Up to this the team had been consistently good for three quarters of games, but that was not enough at this level.
The team finally clicked at the weekend and gave their best performance of the campaign against Eanna.
Eanna had beaten league favourites Moycullen a couple of weeks ago, so this was not going to be an easy challenge. The game started with both teams trying to find their feet.
Lukasz Szulc picked up some nice scores under the basket as he out-muscled his opponent with ease. James Butler had a point to prove after fouling out early in last week’s game. He started very well for the Bank.
Defensively Team Left Bank started in a zone and were relatively solid as they felt their way into the action. The first quarter ended honours even at 17 points apiece and the game began to heat up.
The Bank switched to a man to man pressure defence in the second quarter and really went through the gears with steals from Puff Summers, Julian O’Keeffe and Lughaidh O’Neill leading to some easy lay-ins at the other end.
The most obvious area of improvement was on defensive rebounds as Butler, Szulc and Donohoe were pulling down every ball that did not go in the basket.The team played a fantastic brand of transition basketball in this quarter, which had the home fans very quiet, the home team in disarray and the travelling support extremely vocal.
This is the form Team Left Bank followers were waiting patiently to see. The Bank shot into a 39-27 lead with the clock running down on a great quarter, before Padraig Morrissey hit a huge three pointer at the buzzer, sending the team in with a 15 point lead at the half.
Eanna came out fighting in the second half with their big name signing Barry Glover hitting five points in a 7-0 run before The Bank turned things around again. Puff Summers hit some huge scores in this quarter, along with Lukasz Szulc and Padraig Morrissey, who had his best game of the season.
Colum Prendiville came in again and helped to strengthen the Left Bank defence, which had lapsed slightly after the break. After a shaky start the quarter ended 15-15, meaning The Bank carried their 15 point lead into the final quarter.
In all games to date Team Left Bank have been in with a chance heading into the fourth quarter. Then they faded.
The team struggled to break down the zone defence now employed by Eanna, and as tiredness began to take a toll the Bank leaked scores.
Gradually Eanna crept back into the game. The crowd become noticeably louder after Ciaran MacEvilly hit a big three pointer to bring the divide back to 10 points. The momentum had shifted.
Up stepped Rob Keenan, who has not played a lot this year, and who had a point to prove. His first touch of the ball was a catch. He shot a three pointer. The ball hit nothing but net.
This score was like a shot in the arm for The Bank, who were in danger of slipping. The team switched back to their compact hard working zone. They began to get stops again, and to dominate their own boards.
Rob Keenan chipped in with another score to bring his total to five points for the quarter and help Team Left Bank pick up their first league win of the season.
Despite putting in a good performance for large periods of the game, there is still a lot of work to do to create a winning mentality within the squad. The most encouraging thing was the fact that even when Eanna made their runs, The Bank were able to manage these far better than in previous outings.
This weekend TLB take a break from the league and get back into National Cup action with a visit from Tolka Rovers on Saturday. Tolka beat Team Left Bank by a point in the league in Dublin, so this re-match is eagerly awaited.
The action is in The Watershed on Saturday (6pm). All support would be appreciated.
Scorers v Eanna - Lukasz Szulc (19), Puff Summers (14), Padraig Morrissey (11), James Butler (10), Julian O’Keeffe (8), Rob Keenan (5), Lughaidh O’Neill (2), Kevin Donohoe (2), Colum Prendiville, Liam O’Shaughnessy, Brian Hogan, Paul Leigh.