Bristol Flyers 56 Ipswich Basketball Club 88
Ipswich followed their fantastic performance in last week’s eighteen-point win over second placed Solent Kestrels with another outstanding display, this time on the road to league leading Bristol Flyers.
Bristol visited Copleston back in October, and it was them who handed Ipswich their first loss of the season, and first loss in all competitions for nearly eighteen months. That win seemingly gave Bristol some momentum as they built a nine-game winning streak and a comfortable lead at the top of WNBL Division One going into the return fixture against the Suffolk side.
However, the league leaders ran into an Ipswich side who simply played the best forty-minutes of their season. The meteoric rise of this Ipswich team has been well documented, carrying a reputation that could be seen as both a blessing and a curse. They have a target on their back. They are the (for one more week) the reigning National Cup holders, they can boast no less than five Great Britain Junior Internationals, as well as the league’s leading scorer in Harriet Welham. But, they are also a team that has an average age of just seventeen years old, with three of their five starters having played u16 basketball last season. They are also a team that has battled injury and illness all season, and went into the Christmas break with a 3-5 record, battered and bruised, very much in need of the mid-season break. So, it would be fair to say that the first half of the season has been a steep learning curve for Nick Drane’s team.
Saturday’s trip to Bristol was, on paper, the most daunting road trip of the season. Five hours on a mini-bus to play against the league leaders, the team that finally broke a historic winning streak – Ipswich could have lost this before the game had even started. However, this team is made of stern stuff – led by the dynamic and inspirational play of the teams, and perhaps the leagues, leading player, Harriet Welham.
Ipswich started the better of the two teams, and although Bristol led briefly for less than a minute with the score at 11-8 mid-way through the first quarter, Ipswich simply didn’t let up on their way to their biggest win of the season and the most eye-catching result by any team in the league. Welham was in an unstoppable mood, collecting thirty-five points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists, but it was far from a solo effort. Danni Cazey had her best game of the season, collecting twenty-six points, including a career high six three-pointers, while Charlotte Redhead collected a double-double of thirteen points and eleven rebounds.
Academy players Esther Little, Becky Harwood-Bellis and Cameron Taylor-Willis all also made key contributions while captain Amy Linton had her best game of the season as the Suffolk side dominated from start to finish – holding their league favourites to just fifteen second half points (three in the final quarter). Ipswich eventually won the game 88-56.
“This was outstanding. We played three great quarters against Solent and four great quarters here today – the girls were brilliant” said Head Coach Nick Drane.
Ipswich have started 2019 by taking down the two teams placed first and second at the Christmas break, and have evened their record at 5-5 for the season. While finishing top of the league would appear out of Ipswich’s reach, with a run of three straight home games against teams below them in the league, it looks like the team is hitting its stride at just the right time and with the ultimate goal in WNBL Division One being the play-off championship, Ipswich look well placed to put a run together and give them the best possible seeding going into the post season.