The Wolves Senior Men were up against National League side Glasgow Rocks in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup. This would be a tough ask for the West Lothian side as their opponents are in the league above them and would have the benefit of playing very physical teams week in week out. However this did not phase the Wolves as they went into the game with a point to prove and they certainly were not out classed in this match.
The Wolves started out the game very well, matching the Rock's physical play with some great defence. Scoring was slow in the early going with the Rocks finding the basket first. However the Wolves would not be out played and actually looked like the more organised side early on. The Wolves ran their motion offense in the early goings which helped them get to the basket time and again for easy shots in the paint. Both Owen Cook and Marc Dickson were able to find the basket a couple of times each and point guard Grant Dickson got a nice hustle play, securing his own rebound and putting it back up for the score. The Wolves ball movement was good and their defense became more reliable as they settled into the game. Two early fouls by the Wolves new point guard Jamie Rilley saw him move to the bench early on and Ben O'Connell take his place on the court. The game was very close at the end of the first period with the scoreline reading 17-15 in favour of the Rocks.
The second quarter was as exciting. The Wolves started to look to push the ball, with some great defense being played by the home side. The Rocks could not break out into a big lead and you could see them getting frustrated with the Wolves as they just would not relent. Jamie Rilley had a great steal, followed by dribbling the ball between an opposition players legs and going on to score an open lay-up. Scoring opportunities were capitalised with the Wolves starting to push the ball more in transition looking for fast break baskets. However this led to a number of unforced errors by the Wolves, which meant that they could not take advantage of their strong defense. The Wolves went into the locker room at half time down 4 points with the scoreline reading 35-31.
The third quarter saw the Wolves loose their grip on the game and the Rocks began to look more organised on the offensive side of the floor. The Rocks took advantage of a well run Flex offense that saw them score six points in a row off the play. The Wolves however did not give up on the game and continued to make strong runs only to loose momentum time and again. They pulled a nine point lead back to four points and then let it slip away again towards the end of the quarter. The third saw the Wolves youngest player step in and make an instant impact on the game. Darren Baxter stepped into the game and very quickly hit two three point shots. This good shooting helped get the Wolves back into the game before they let it slip away. The Wolves went into the final period down 11 points with the scoreline reading 54-43.
The fourth quarter had two very distinct periods. The first five minutes saw the Wolves continue to fight and look aggressive, again looking to eat into the 11 point lead. However the final 5 minutes saw the Rocks stretch the lead out to it's eventual 21 points. When asked the different the Wolves Coach Andy Smyth stated, 'The difference was the level of physicality. We are not used to the constant physical contact and by the end of the game our guys were zapped of their energy. I think we looked every bit as good as that National League squad, however their extra physical play wore our guys down.' The Wolves offenses became stagnant as players started to hold onto the ball a bit too long and started to try and dribble penetrate to create opportunities rather than let the ball move to create chances to score. Ben O'Connell however provided some highlights in the final period, with a lovely drive, followed by a couple of lovely three point shots. The final score was 71-50 to the Rocks, however the final score was not an indication of how close the game was for 3.5 quarters.
Overall the Wolves played really well. If they take that form into the Lothian League it will hopefully stand them in good stead to be very competitive in their league. Some other highlights of the game were the continuing evolution of two new players to the squad. Piotr Jeszkie and Kas Waqas both made good contributions to the game. As the season continues I would expect to see their roles developing as they become more confident with the defensive and offensive systems and their team-mates. David Cubitt also continued his solid play, with disruptive defense being his trademark. At the end of the day it was an entertaining game and a platform for the Wolves to continue to grow.