The word ‘monarchy’ has never been more fitting of a Reid avenue team in the recent past. The Royal College Basketball team walked into the season as the prominent team and lived up to it. There is no better ending to the anecdote, other than to write it plainly, simply and proudly; unbeaten and undisputed champions for the year 2017 in the schools` basketball arena.
Royal College kicked off the season beating their favourtie rivals S. Thomas` College in their annual basketball encounter. Next, remaining unbeaten through their games, it was Lyceum International School, Wattala they took on to claim the National School Games 2017 title. The final victim, St. Joseph`s College, Colombo 10, in the U 19 ThePapare Basketball championship (TPBC17) they so befittingly claimed to a packed audience last week in Colombo.
“The feeling in the team is great, we were able to achieve this victory after five years. Last time we remained unbeaten was under the captaincy of Nipun Siriwardhana. So yes, the coaching staff, old boys and everyone is happy”, Leon Femback shared the thoughts of the entire team in three sentences.
It was not the easiest of the seasons for the Reid Avenue lads. Untoward weather conditions caused the match schedules to be put in disarray. The schools` basketball calendar being tight with the clutter in schedules, the lads were forced to play two major tournaments in a span of one and a half months’.
Royal College`s run in 2016 was halted in second runners up spot. To wind up 2017 from third place to champions, the regeneration process of the team had to have been meticulous.
“We did not create a defensive player but we created a defensive team”, shared Head Coach, Prasanna Jayasinghe explaining how clear-cut the revamping process was.
Winning of the tournaments did not happen merely because of practicing for months. It was a balanced equation that was composed carefully. Hard work on one side while analysis of opposition teams which ran back to a stretch of five years and scientific, mathematical methods, put together by the coaching staff on the other side.
“The 2017 U19 team, when they played in U14 and U15 age categories we were not able to win matches in this manner. So we analyzed the patterns as to why we lost and then we realized it was our defense. That is how the decision on focusing more in defense was taken”, added Head Coach Jayasinghe on how home-work was done prior to the tournament.
Balancing both sides of the equation was not the herculean task that was at hand. The more onerous task for the lads was to be in their form and refrain from injuries amidst the hostile weather.
“It is hard to survive without injuries when you continue to do high-intensity training constantly. You have to understand that you have to go for a transition period and go for a light practice. Then gear up when you are nearing the match date again. Since we understood that and acted accordingly we were able to keep the team intact until the tournament finished”, explained Head Coach Jayasinghe.
Validating the process followed by the coaching staff Rukshan Atapattu who was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) expressed his views, “When the rain started disrupting our practices we shifted back to our individual practices where we focused on the basics such as shooting”
The set plans were in motion, but, Royalists played through a semi-final match that was tough as the final. It was a narrow escape and excruciating fight which they won against Asian International School by just one point. One could argue that it was luck who charmed the win. Was it? We asked the Head Coach.
“We knew the game will be a tight one, so coming into the third quarter we played a hard game, which exerted pressure on AIS. The AIS coach was forced to go for time-outs to keep AIS in the game. Apart from the tactic, our team was well prepared during practices to hold off pressure during the final few seconds so we knew exactly what to do. We took it point by point and executed what we practiced”, Head Coach Jayasinghe replied with a satisfactory smirk on his face.
Winning a semi-final by a point can put players at peak and add great confidence to the entire team. On the flip-side, it will carve out a little pressure on the mind. Skipper Tharindu Balasooriya explained how the team handled both sides.
“Well, we had a couple of more days to practice so it helped us to ease off the pressure and we were well prepared”.
Coming into the final game, it was the second half that swapped the game for the lads. The Royal defense completely outmaneuvered the Josephians. What was that defensive strategy? We asked the coach. He laughed and said,
“There is a lot of talking going around about the defensive strategy that we implemented, but no one has cracked it as of yet, it will remain a secret and I will let the rest of the coaches derive it when they can”.
Strategies and mercurial plans have always been the monarchial way of winning wars, this was no different.