The Edinburgh Kings marched on to another Scottish National League basketball playoff final after giving the University of Glasgow a thorough demonstration of why they’ve dominated the championship for a decade.
The Kings were just four points up after the first leg, and the University had pushed them close in the last meeting in the regular season with the Kings winning on the buzzer.
But what could have been a difficult match quickly turned into a showcase of just why the Kings have won the title in nine of the past ten years. The final score of 95-50 was by no means flattering to the Edinburgh side.
There was some dispute over the final score, though. Just about everyone in the crowd, including a number of people taking point-by-point notes, had the final score as 98-52.
Had the match been closer, like the first leg, the disappearing points could have been vital. Dodgy scoring, combined with the huge amount of dubious refereeing calls, made for some pretty sloppy officiating.
The players and coaches who work so hard to play in games at this level deserve better.
This shouldn’t detract from Edinburgh’s victory, though. Having conceded 70 points to the Uni in the first leg, and been made to look blunt in attack at times at Kelvin Hall, they demonstrated real class under pressure in the Portobello High School gym.
Kings coach Doug Reilly was in no doubt that his team deserved their victory: “Last week we didn’t start very well, this week we started as we should be. That was the difference.
“The players are winners; they know how to do it.”
The Edinburgh side always look best when they are moving the ball quickly in attack. At Kelvin Hall they’d struggled to find their rhythm, but there were no such problems here. They flew into the first quarter, and had a 25/17 lead at the break.
In the second quarter the Kings’ attack maintained their momentum, whilst some great defending kept the University at bay. Glasgow only managed to score four points, and with the score 43/21 at half time a stop in the final was secure.
The excellent Lee Reilly controlled proceedings for the majority of the second half, and coach Reilly took the opportunity to give some of his less-used players a run out.
But amongst the flowing basketball and rock solid defence there lurks a dark side to the Kings. For a team gifted with big players like Edgars Rekis and Simon Flockhart they reacted extremely badly when the Uni tried to compete with them physically.
Rekis in particular seemed intent on repeatedly embarrassing himself, even when his team were leading by a good 30 points.
First he lashed out at Ugnius Zasimauskas, a player who just about comes up to Rekis’ shoulders, as the two scrambled on the floor. Reacting to imagined physical attacks seemed particularly hypocritical after he’d bust Dave Entwistle’s nose with a flailing forearm. Then he felt the need to applaud when Nicol missed a free throw.
Such impetuousness can make his team look like school yard bullies rather than the excellent basketball team they are. Rekis needs to learn to control his temper and win with dignity.
The University were hampered by the curse of all university teams at this time of year: exams. Calum Nicol, who had played so well at Kelvin Hall the week before, arrived in Edinburgh as the teams were lining up for the tip having come directly from an exam.
When he’d got his kit on he was instantly brought on court, but for obvious reasons the team never looked settled in the first quarter, and by the time they got into their stride the Kings were already well on top.
Uni coach Mike Lawton thought his team riled the champions by sticking with them in the first leg: “They’re really tough in their home gym, and they came out ready to play. I think by pushing them so close last week we made them hungry.”
As ever with University teams there will be enforced change in the close season as a number of players graduate. Although they couldn’t quite make it to the dream final, the likes of Dave Entwistle, Lewis Crofts and Chris Neal can reflect on another hugely successful season, whilst coaches Lawton and Kevin McQuade will be hoping their new recruits can continue the good work of the past few years.
by David Lyons