The ball whirled to the left hand side of the court, straight into the palms of an open player sporting the green Baros uniform. She positioned her feet behind the three-point line and jumped into the air, the ball leaving her hands with a casual flick of the wrist. The ball arced high into the air before dropping into the net with a swish.
That’s how every first point of a basketball game should look. The Ladies 2 team from EBV Baros Basketball were facing off against SBU, hailing from Utrecht. The game had only just begun, but the air was already rife with tension and energy from the players. Coaches from both teams could be heard calling out plays and positions to players. The benches of both teams yelled with every point scored, chanting “De-fence, De-fence, De-fence!”, creating a cacophony of noise in the sports hall.
Throughout the entire first half of the game, Baros had a relatively comfortable seven point lead over SBU. Shooting guard number 12, Cornelia Louh, drove hard towards the basket, then spun smoothly to the left away from her defender and scored a lay-up. Shortly afterwards, forward number 13, Priscilla Kluis, held the ball, sizing up her opponent, then dribbled once to the left past one of her teammates who had set a “screen” for her before taking the open shot.
The game really started to pick up in the second half, when it seemed everything started to click for SBU. In particular their defence tightened, while Baros’ scoring streak slowly started to fade. Baros’ Number 15 Nikki Hal, however, really started to get in the flow, catching the ball inside the paint and scoring there consistently. Spectators also started to trickle in, cheering for Baros every time a point was scored.
As the fourth quarter began, you could almost feel the fire and ice contrast between the Baros coach and the SBU coach. For the entirety of the game, Mannes Bijlmakers, the coach of the Baros team, could be heard yelling encouragement and repeating “focus” to his players. The SBU coach seemed calmer, calling time-outs and sketching out plays on his whiteboard, telling his players to keep calm and pull together.
The last play
It seemed to work, because with only three minutes and 45 seconds left in the game, SBU finally took the lead with a long range two point shot. Frustration and exhaustion was etched clearly on the face of every player, sweat dripping and lungs hoarse from shouting. With only a minute left, Baros had one final play to catch up. The ball was passed to the left, and then Kluis sprinted past her defender, smoothly catching the ball and rising up to take the three-point shot.
Time seemed to move in slow motion, with some players on the bench standing up in anticipation. The chants from spectators were momentarily silenced and everyone on and off the court watched as the ball descended from the peak of its arc towards the basket.
Unfortunately for Baros, the ball just missed the centre of the ring, bouncing off at an angle and into the hands of a waiting SBU player. The game ended soon after, 54-63 and a win for the visiting team SBU.
The Ladies 2 team looked as if they had a bitter taste in their mouth, staying ahead for most of the game only to fall behind in the last couple minutes. Hal mentioned how the switch to zone defence in the second half by SBU really frustrated the team, both in how they ran their offence and their mental state. The team’s play against zone defence is called “Lummeltje”, and as Priscilla said it’s “basically where we toss the ball back and forth at the top of the key”, to put two of their players against one of the opposing team’s players. Both Hal and Kluis were frustrated with the referees at some points. Kluis especially commented: “A lot of the game is mental. It felt like we were playing against the other team and the refs at the same time.”
Hal scored more than 18 points during the game. When asked how she did it and what it felt like, her response was a nonchalant: “It was a normal game for me.” What a baller.
A fun team
Despite losing the game, from watching the group of ladies together I could tell they seemed to be having fun. As they got together to take a team picture, you could see them striking poses and messing around with each other before the shots.
“We’re just a fun team… we’re more alive. When you bond personally, you’re able to read the other person’s moves.”
The close relationship between team members extends off the court as well, with monthly team dinners and rounds of drinks taking place. The team also has a buddy system, where each player has one other person on the team who’s their go-to for tips and support.
From rivals to teammates
The team mixes old and new players from previous years, and the season has focused a lot on figuring out individual player’s specialties, from passing to driving to shooting, and working them into the overall team chemistry. The coach, Bijlmakers, contributes a great deal to this. While undoubtedly intense on the court, he’s described as a “sweetheart” by one of the players, teaching strategy and skills to the team during weekly practices and emphasising positivity.
By a strange twist of fate, this team also brings together former rivals. Hal, Kluis and Liesje Josefina used to play against each other when they were younger and on different teams. Now, Baros has put them all on the same team and they’ve grown from being enemies to teammates and friends.
The Ladies 2 team is currently third out of eighth in their division. For the rest of the season, the goal is to overcome one of their biggest challenges: staying positive. It’s a team with the potential to do so, one with talent and tenacity, a diverse set of players driven by a motivated coach. For the next and for every game to come, the plan is summed up simply by something Bijlmakers is fond of saying: “Focus on the game!”