Ipswich travelled to bottom of the table Birmingham on the back of a four-game winning streak. However, the Suffolk ladies were dealt a massive blow earlier in the week when Great Britain international Cameron Taylor-Willis was ruled out indefinitely with a broken bone in her foot. However, Ipswich should have still been in a confident mood, albeit in the knowledge that Birmingham’s record didn’t necessarily give a truthful reflection of how dangerous of a team they are. Unfortunately, Ipswich found out the hard way – falling to an unexpected 68-67 loss.
Ipswich’s lack of dominance could be forgiven – in addition to long term absentee Taylor-Willis, leading scorer Harriet Welham continues to play through pain, while other key players Becky Harwood-Bellis and Charlotte Redhead are also carrying knocks. The brightest news for Ipswich is the emergence of 15-year-old Susannah Rafiu, who, starting in place of ‘CTW’, continues to blossom – the youngster was again an exciting presence at both ends of the floor for IBC.
Cameron Taylor-Willis is expected to miss an extended period of time with a broken foot (Photo: Pavel Kricka)
The game itself was a disappointing one for Ipswich, as the result suggests. In spite of all the injuries, Ipswich have more than enough firepower and quality for take care of business against a Birmingham side with just one win all season. But the Ipswich team simply didn’t perform for long enough to grind out what would have been an excellent win. After trailing for much of the first quarter, a late run gave them a slender lead, a lead they we give up in the second quarter – going into half time down six. The third quarter saw Birmingham hit an unlikely hot streak from beyond the arc, going on a 12-0 run to open up a large lead, only for Ipswich to peg them back with some excellent defence, and some hot shooting of her own from Becky Harwood-Bellis. Birmingham held on to just a two-point lead going into the final period of play.
The fourth looked like Ipswich’s quality would see them grind their hosts down, but again Birmingham connected from long range to open up a five-point lead with a minute to play. Ipswich again brought it back to within one, but Harriet Welham’s three point shot at the final buzzer that would have won Ipswich the game, rattled in and out giving Birmingham an unlikely, but well-deserved win. Final score 68-67.
“This loss sucks!” Said Coach Nick Drane after the game. “To be frank the whole week has pretty much sucked. We have lost one of our best and most consistent players to a nasty injury, we’ve not had the best week in terms of practice and this pretty much caps it off. We played like we thought it was going to be easy today, certainly for periods of the game – while at other times we looked like we flipped the switch and could beat anyone. That being said, you can’t underestimate the number of health issues we have on the team, and they will not be going away before the end of this season – so we just have to get on with it. We said at Christmas that our aim was to get the best possible seeding for the play-offs so we can make a real push for the National Championship, and that remains our goal – we have great character in this team and we know where we are at – we are brave, we are bruised, this is us”! Added the Ipswich play caller.
Ipswich host high-flying Loughborough next weekend who are looking to solidify a top four finish themselves.
Becky Harwood-Bellis 20, Harriet Welham 17 and Esther Little/Danni Cazey 11.