Ipswich 60 - 57 Reading Rockets
University of Essex Arena
A tense and exciting U18 Women's final went the way of Ipswich 60-57, though the result was up for grabs until the final seconds of the game.
The Suffolk side led for almost the entirety of the 2nd half but were never able to create an advantage of more than 7 points as both teams battled back and forth. Tied at 52-52 with 2:25 remaining, players and fans alike were unaware of which way the final would swing as the already impressive noise from the stands grew with every possession. With key plays down the stretch, Ipswich gradually edged ahead, keeping their composure from the free-throw line for another famous National Cup win.
In a game that featured a number of MVP worthy performances on both sides, it was Ipswich's Susannah Rafiu who eventually got the nod. With 15 points and seven rebounds plus two assists and an amazing six blocks, Rafiu was impressive at both ends of the court. Ipswich captain Esther Little also had 15 points to go with 13 boards, and Cameron Taylor-Willis had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Sitota Gines top scored for Reading with 21 points before fouling out late in the 4th, whilst talented forward Anabel Lattore finished with a 12 point, 12 rebound double-double.
Ipswich travelled with a phenomenal following of well over two-hundred spectators, who gave them a huge advantage in the stands, and the team did not disappoint.
“What a fantastic day” Said Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane. “Reading were undefeated in all competitions this season, so to get the win, on this stage, after everything we have been through this season, shows amazing character”.
Ipswich have battled injury all season in the academy league, with the final being the first game that Esther Little and Susannah Rafiu have played together all season, often travelling to games with six, and in one case, five healthy players.
The team now turn their attention to the business end of the academy season, with a win on Wednesday away to Itchen College, the team will confirm themselves as the two seed in the south conference and a home draw in the first round of the playoffs.
To relive the action, watch it in full on YouTube: