The final moments of the final game of the season saw our u18 Women add the National Championship to their National Cup success, crowning one of the greatest seasons in club history.
It has been a phenomenal season for the club across the board with both senior teams making the playoffs, the u14 boys and girls both getting within touching distance of the National Semi-Finals, while the u16 girls made it all the way to the National Cup Final in January, and the Final Fours this past weekend, finishing 3rd. However, the achievements of our u18 women will be the story that will go down, not only in Ipswich Basketball history, but English Basketball history – with a historic double.
This past weekend in Manchester, the British Basketball Community saw Ipswich Basketball at our absolute best! Two teams showcasing the amazing talent we as a club repeatedly defy to odds to produce on the court, dozens of supporters in the stands with drums, wigs, flags, and apparently now vuvuzalers! Such is our reputation for travelling supporters, that the commentators in the venue now, talk openly about the ‘IBC Family’.
On court, it was mixed emotions on the Saturday, with the u16’s narrowly losing out to Richmond on Saturday, for a place in the final on the Sunday. The games had been split between the two teams in the regular season, but Ipswich had enjoyed victory at Copleston back in December in the National Cup semi-final, meaning Richmond were able to even the series, and find themselves in the final against the mighty, undefeated Manchester in the final – while our girls would face CoLA on Sunday for the right to call themselves the 3rd best team in the country.
The u18’s faced previously undefeated Manchester Mystics in the semi-final. Mystics impressive 15-0 regular season, meant that they would start as favourites, especially as the National Performance Centre, Basketball England’s ‘Neutral Venue’ for finals events, is in Manchester. This meant that there is the added advantage of a home crowd, not to mention the lack of logistical headaches such as travel, hotels and where 24 players, staff and parents can eat a meal! So when our girls battled back from a poor first half, that saw them down by nine points at one stage, to win 88-80, they demonstrated a level of character and spirit that would be needed to do battle with the mighty CoLA in the final, a team that had won the u18 National Championship for five straight years. We were led by another showstopping performance from Yazmin Edwards, while Louisa, Liv and Christabel all filled up the stats sheet.
Sunday saw our u16’s bounce back in style. Coach Manning and his team could have been forgiven for feeling despondent and fatigued, they were in a battle until the end against Richmond, while CoLA’s game with Manchester in the other semi, was less competitive, meaning the heartbreak was possibly slightly less for them. But these u16’s are made of stern stuff, and after a slow start, the girls were able to grind out the win in a low scoring affair 53-47 – finishing off a fantastic season as National Cup runners-up and the 3rd placed team at the National Final Four.
Last, and certainly not least, our u18 ladies took the court to face CoLA, a repeat of the National Cup Final from back in January. Or… a repeat of last years National Final, or last years u18 cup final. Or… a repeat of the 2021 Division One playoff final… Or a repeat of the 2020 WEABL Final… You get the idea…
In what turned out to be a classic, our girls would edge out their opponents by just three points, winning the game 75-72. CoLA started the game with a 10-1 run. With three minutes to go in the second, Ipswich were up by nine, before CoLA dragged it back to just two going into the break. Foul trouble for Louisa Gibbins and Liv Forster could have undermined our third quarter, but our girls weathered the storm, and held a one-point advantage going into the final quarter. In the fourth, it became a heavy-weight slug fest, with both teams throwing knock out punches that would have finished most other teams, but in the closing minutes Ipswich captain Liv Forster took the game over to close the game out for Ipswich, who were crowned National Champions.
Liv Forster was fittingly named MVP, recording 30 points, making six 3's on 50% shooting, while scoring fifteen of the team's final twenty points. Yazmin Edwards, who wishes she could play every game on the show court in Manchester, added twenty points and fifteen boards.
After the game, an understandably emotional Head Coach Nick Drane said “This has been the hardest season in club history. To see the club like this, here in Manchester, in full force on and off the court is incredible and everyone involved deserves this. This is all about the girls – they are amazing”.
Ipswich Basketball Club’s attention now turns to our awards evening on Saturday the 13th May. Always an inspirational and emotional night, this year is going to be extra special now!