ECHUCA’s basketball teams head into the Christmas break sharing similar first halves of the season.
Both sides have struggled with scoring, too often outclassed and outgunned by opponents with more experience and size.
And both went into the break with relatively similar, but disappointing, records.
The Senior Pirates have broken through for not just their first win of the season, it was also their first victory in two years.
For the Lady Pirates that opening win remains elusive.
On the scoreboard, it’s not a great sight.
However, people who have watched the sides play agree there has been a marked improvement throughout the year.
For the Senior Pirates, the improvement has come through the defence, finding ways to lock down opposition scoring and putting pressure on the shot clock. These improvements were key in helping the side get their only win of the season against fellow cellar dweller Myrtleford.
The game saw Tyler Phillips dominate on the boards, while Liam Tenace was able to score in the 20s and lead the side to a strong victory.
Coach Leo Tenace has been very open about the team’s struggles throughout the year but remains convinced the side is on the right track.
‘‘We have a team that can do the right things around the court,’’ Tenace said.
‘‘We’ve had a few issues through the year with injuries and guys not always being available, but when our best team is together we can put up the results we are capable of.’’
Tenace said the team had started looking towards next year, looking to develop its game plan as the season finished up.
‘‘We are moving towards the end of the year looking at how we are going to play next year, working on the key areas that we can improve and I think that will bode well for our next season.’’
Tenace was given the job late in the preparation for the season, but said he wanted to remain coach into the next season.
‘‘I want to keep coaching this team. We as a group have developed a sense of where we are going to go and I want to continue to lead this team through that development,’’ he said.
For the Lady Pirates, it has been a challenge from the first tip off.
Due to other sports commitments, the core of the team was only able to come together two weeks before the start of the CBL season.
However, coach Simon Eishold is incredibly proud of how they have gone.
‘‘I think there has been some outstanding improvement throughout the team, we’ve seen progress and the girls are enjoying it, which really matters,’’ he said.
The team’s biggest improvement throughout the season has been the ability to take shots.
In the opening games the Pirates lacked confidence on the offensive end but this has changed as the season has progressed.
‘‘I think it’s something we have had to work on all season long, but now feel like we are finally getting the shots up and with that is coming pressure on the boards as well.’’
The side has been unable to win a game this season, but has shown its ability to stay in matches.
‘‘We are behind the other teams in terms of skill, we know that. And we also know that if we want to be competitive in games then we have to all play at our absolute best throughout matches.’’
The side’s best game of the season came in the opening round against Shepparton, where the Pirates fell short by just five points.
The team was handcuffed with foul trouble late in the game, which took some of the intense one-on-one pressure out of the game.
‘‘It was a great game that the whole side played, we were really pleased with the performance,’’ Eishold said.
‘‘But this is the frustration, we know we have the skill to be better and we also know a win will spark that in us. They’re hard to come by, but we will keep working.’’
As with the Senior Pirates, the Lady Pirates have started looking towards next season.
‘‘We’ve given a few of our under 18 girls a run, getting them in to see what it is like at CBL level. They’ll be richer for the experience and it will help in the early stages of next year.’’
While both sides have not had the results they would have liked this year, the future is bright.
The Pirates have had a great deal of success at junior tournaments in the past two years, with a number of tournament wins against players who will also move towards CBL level in coming seasons.
The Echuca Basketball Association has said the CBL program exists to give opportunities in Echuca to those who want to play. If the Pirates can retain some of this talent and feed it through the Lady and Senior Pirates sides, there is a solid chance for a competitive future.