Leuven Bears got off to an excellent start after the New Year. It convincingly put aside a tame Aalst in its own Sportoase (88-69) and thus grabbed its last straw towards the Elite Gold. Coach Eddy Casteels was therefore very satisfied with his team. “Darnell Snyers has played more than creditably. He shook up our guards from a defensive point of view”, says Casteels.
The fact that Leuven has to pull out all the stops to achieve the Elite Gold is entirely due to itself. Before the turn of the year, after a weak display, it lost no chance against Antwerp Giants and Brussels. So against Aalst there was an urgent need for improvement if it still wanted to claim the Elite Gold. That happened too. Brevin Pritzl and Darnell Snyers were the exponents of an eager Leuven on Saturday, which put Aalst aside with beautiful play and flashy combinations. Brevin Pritzl in particular showed a satisfactory performance after his injury – Pritzl was sidelined for three months with a hand injury. “It was the very first time I had a score above thirty again after my return,” said Pritzl. “I was in the game well and found the right cadence that I showed at the beginning of this season, before my injury. It feels good to find that old form again.”
Cutters of gold value
Leuven went to rest with a 50-34 lead and never saw that bonus lost in the second half. The gap continued to fluctuate around fifteen points, until Darnell Snyers delivered the finishing shot at 59-39 Aalst. “I’ve finally been able to show what I’m capable of,” beamed Snyers. “I made the ball go around well, at the same time made sure that the attacking game did not stop and that the defensive tasks were not neglected.”
Coach Eddy Casteels joined Snyers in this. “Darnell shook up our guards defensively. He has played more than creditably. And as for Pritzl, your rhythm as a player doesn’t come back in a week. You never go unpunished after a long injury. That’s what Brevin found out. Now we finally saw his form curve peak again and he took the team in tow as we are used to from him.”
Thanks to the victory, Leuven has not yet been counted out for the Elite Gold, although that promises to be a tough task. “I still believe that we can fight to reach the Elite Gold”, said Casteels combatively. “As difficult as that gets.”
In his wishful thinking the Leuven coach remained blind to the fact that Leuven lost every chance against national champion Ostend Leuven in the last two seasons. And let that confrontation be scheduled just next week. With an away match in Bergen on Friday, Leuven will have to perform a real tour de force not to let the seized straw slip from their hands. Lead in the shoes on Sunday against Ostend will not help.