Ipswich Basketball 97-89 Team Solent Kestrels
WNBL Division I
Copleston Sports Centre
In front of a personally invited, socially-distanced crowd of just under 40 spectators, Ipswich Basketball put on an offensive clinic to seal victory in their first home game for over nine months on Sunday afternoon.
One of the first elite sports events in England to be permitted to host spectators since the onset of Covid-19 in March, this game was sure to live long in the memories of Ipswich’s staff and players, for whom Copleston has so long been a fortress. But the display put on by both sides ensured those present will remember it warmly, too.
Both Ipswich and the visiting Kestrels started the game at a high offensive pace, with a 24-23 scoreline aptly reflecting just how close an affair the first quarter was. Ipswich would carve out a lead in the second, however, behind an excellent defensive effort and relentless offense led by captain Harriet Welham.
Welham had racked up 21 points by half time, with Ipswich setting their season high for first-half points en-route to a 54-42 half-time advantage.
Solent, who suffered a late reversal against Anglia Ruskin University on Saturday, were in no mood to take a second defeat of the weekend and started well in the third quarter, but Danni Cazey came alive for Ipswich with 11 points in under three minutes to restore the hosts’ lead to double-digits.
From then on, Solent started to look increasingly comfortable on offense, and dominated the offensive rebound opportunities, adding to their momentum. The lead was chipped away in the early stages of the fourth quarter, until a Saffie Jarju lay-up brought the visitors within three points with two minutes to play.
As they have done previously this campaign, Ipswich responded well to the pressure. Cameron Taylor-Willis, Esther Little and Colleen Leung combined to make five of six free throws and another Welham lay-up bolstered Ipswich’s lead, while on the other end the home defense clamped down and Solent were held to one further score before time expired.
Welham finished with a game-high 30 points and eight assists, backed up by four further players in double-digits (Cazey 15, Leung 13, Taylor-Willis 11, Little 10). For Solent, Krisztina Velkey finished with 23 points and Krissy Karpova added 17.
“Obviously a fantastic win and it’s great to keep the winning streak alive,” said Ipswich head coach Nick Drane, whose team improve to a perfect 6-0 for the season. “But today was about much more than that for us.
“Our whole programme is built around the ‘IBC family’, and to be able to have some our families in the gym today – just to be able to play on our home court, after it was closed for six weeks – has been such a special moment.
“I’d like to thank every volunteer around the club who helped organise the safety protocols for today, not to mention the many who turned their hands to volunteering on the day. This one will stay with us for a while.”