Ipswich Basketball Senior Women’s team got off to the perfect start in Wales on Sunday as they beat their hosts, the Cardiff Met Archers 71-65.
Much like 2021/22, Ipswich come into the season with some significant changes from the previous year – with starting Centre Yassin Belle-Mbaye now combining her studies with her basketball in Solent, while last season’s captain and Ipswich Basketball legend Cameron Taylor-Willis moved on to also combine studies and basketball, at the University of Essex. Therefore, Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane opted to promoted some of his latest crop of academy players, as opposed to heavily recruiting established and experienced senior players at the National League level. In fact, the only returning ‘senior’ from last season, was American guard Ava Battese, who was the team’s leading scorer last season. GB U18 International Louisa Gibbins has joined the programme from Bristol, while Liv Forster and Saruna Gudza return, giving the team and young but exciting core. Elsewhere, exciting wing Christabel Osarobo was promoted to the starting five, while Millie Pearson is expected to take on a significantly larger role, leaning on her experience from the past two season’s as a bench player at the Senior level. Drane’s final roster spots are made up by Olivia Manning, Anya McKenzie, Yazmin Edwards and Abbie Yorke – all who have featured with the women’s team in the past, but all are expected to take on a much larger level of responsibility this season.
As is often the case, the first game of the season can be something of an unknown quantity, with teams (including Ipswich) not giving a great deal away ahead of the season’s curtain raiser. However, the ‘new look’ Suffolk side, led from start to finish in Wales, and had it not been for a late charge from Cardiff, could have made something of a statement win to start the season. With Battese and Forster carrying on where they left off from last season, combining for seven three-pointers, and with Gudza attacking the rim and dictating the pace of the game, Ipswich looked to have things under control. However, in Isobel Bunyon, Cardiff have one of the league’s most lethal players and her play, combined with the experience of veteran Solene Lemoigne, meant that Cardiff would battle until the end, making Ipswich work hard for the win.
Ipswich were helped by a strong debut from 16 year old Gibbins, and outstanding contributions from Manning and Edwards off the bench, as well as solid play from Pearson and McKenzie and the former league and playoff champions got off to the perfect start.
“This was a great start. There is a lot to work on, as you would expect at this stage of the season, but we are delighted with the win and look forward to playing in front of our home crowd, friends and family next weekend” Said Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane.
Ipswich host the Reading Rockets next Saturday at 3:30pm at Copleston.
- Ava Battese 20
- Saruna Gudza 20
- Liv Forster 15