Ipswich move one win away from League title as CoLA's unbeaten run is ended

Ipswich Basketball 67-54 CoLA Southwark Pride

WNBL Division 1 Copleston Sports Centre Ipswich Basketball tightened their grip on the WNBL Division 1 National League crown with a hard-fought home victory over fellow title chasers City of London Academy-Southwark Pride on Saturday. This was always destined to be a season-defining challenge for both sides. With Ipswich taking the game in overtime back in November’s match-up in London, and the two teams sat atop the WNBL Division 1 table going into the tie, both squads were well aware that the winner would take a significant step towards the league title and top seed status for the playoffs. Ipswich started well, building a 10-point lead mid-way through the first quarter, but CoLA’s defensive and rebounding intensity and a strong first-half shooting performance from forward Simona Henshaw helped the visitors back into the game and the contest was tied at half time, 32-32.

Ipswich went down low to Susannah Rafiu in the second half of Saturday's win (Photo: Pavel Kricka)

The hosts made a quick start to the third quarter, with scores from Cameron Taylor-Willis, Ella Pearson and Harriet Welham briefly opening a nine-point lead, but two three-pointers from Emily O’Connell kept CoLA close. By the end of the period, Ipswich had eked out a seven-point lead at 50-43. There was a final run from CoLA early in the fourth, but with the game back to a two-point gap, Ipswich kicked on with the decisive scoring run of the game. The hosts allowed their visitors just two points over the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game while scores from Welham, Susannah Rafiu and Danielle Cazey pushed Ipswich’s lead to a game-high 13 points by the final buzzer. “Our defensive effort was absolutely fantastic today, and it was critical to the win in the end”, said Head Coach Nick Drane. “We knew that offensively we would be up against it with CoLA’s excellent defence, and we had to match them in that category. I felt we did that. “Offensively we found those couple of extra elements which made the difference late on, with a couple of huge momentum scores by Susannah at the end of the third and then again in the fourth. We have great faith in our group offensively to be able to get the job done when they need to.” Ipswich remain top of WNBL Division 1 and could seal the league championship with a victory at home to Loughborough Riders this weekend. Loughborough kept up the pressure with a 73-60 win in Cardiff against the struggling Archers on Saturday. Elswhere, there were wins for Reading Rockets, Solent Kestrels and Nottingham Trent University, who split their weekend with a win over Cardiff and a road loss at Worcester Wolves.