IPSWICH BASKETBALL 88-54 THAMES VALLEY CAVALIERS
WNBL DIVISION 1 PLAYOFFS
COPLESTON SPORTS CENTRE
Ipswich Basketball advanced to the semi-finals of the WNBL1 playoff bracket with an eventually comfortable margin of victory over a feisty Thames Valley Cavaliers side on Saturday at Copleston.
The final scoreline did not do justice to the visitors’ performance, however, as top-seed Ipswich were made to work from start to finish and only a 31-point second quarter inflated the lead in what was a hotly contested tie for long stretches.
The Cavaliers, playing without pressure as the eighth seed and on the road, started the contest at a frenetic pace and their full-court press initially caused problems for Ipswich in a turnover-laden first quarter. Midway through the period, the score was tied at 12-12.
An early timeout gave Ipswich head coach Nick Drane the opportunity to re-organise his team’s defense, and his players responded in emphatic fashion. Thames Valley’s offense began to struggle and Ipswich’s renewed efforts on offense created a series of run-out layup opportunities at the other end. A 40-15 run over the remainder of the first half propelled the Suffolk side to a 52-27 half-time lead.
Harriet Welham and Danielle Cazey led the way, combining for 18 of Ipswich’s 31 second-quarter points. Charlotte Redhead contributed another eight points from the bench.
To their credit, Thames Valley, behind an outstanding effort from do-it-all American guard Katherine Goldsby, fought all the way. The second half was a closer affair, Ipswich outscoring their guests 36-27 after the break. The visitors found plenty of success securing offensive rebounds, but Ipswich’s interior defense, led by Esther Little and Cameron Taylor-Willis, contributed to Thames Valley converting just 25% of their shots to prevent a serious comeback bid.
Welham finished with a game-high 35 points (on just 15 shots), while Cazey chipped in 11 in an otherwise balanced scoring performance in which ten players scored for Ipswich. Goldsby paced the visitors with a 13-point, 15-rebound double-double but only substitute Emma Bush was able to support her with ten points.
“I feel this is exactly what we needed in a playoff quarter-final”, said coach Nick Drane following the game. “The Cavaliers came here today knowing they had nothing to lose and all credit to them, they gave us a real scare to start the game. That’s the benefit of being a veteran team, knowing the playoff environment. Credit to our girls, I thought they reacted extremely well under the pressure and with the right adjustments we were able to meet the challenge.”
There were no major surprises in the other quarter-final ties, with second-seed CoLA Southwark Pride and third-seed Loughborough Riders both advancing, although the Reading Rockets pushed the Riders all the way. The only road win of the round came as fifth-seed Nottingham Trent University knocked out fourth-seed Solent Kestrels in Southampton, meaning NTU will be Ipswich’s semi-final opponents at Copleston this weekend.