TEAM SOLENT KESTRELS 71-79 IPSWICH BASKETBALL
WNBL Division 1
Solent Sports Complex, Southampton
IPSWICH BASKETBALL made it a perfect two wins out of two to start the season with a hard-fought victory over Solent Kestrels on Saturday.
Travelling to Southampton’s Solent University on the back of a convincing opening-day defeat of BA London Lions, Coach Nick Drane’s side were the first to find their feet, a blistering start fuelled by three three-pointers in the opening minutes from Charlotte Redhead as the Suffolk side jumped out to an early 20-6 lead.
But Solent, who finished 11-5 in the shortened 2019/20 season and have strengthened in the off-season, were not about to fold, and found their way into the game behind strong performances from Krisztina Velkey and Faye Endean. The hosts had managed to slow Ipswich by the end of the first quarter and reduced the arrears to eight at 25-17.
The second quarter continued in the attritional, physical style of the more experienced hosts, who continued to lean on Endean and Velkey for scoring but made the most of the inside presence of Erica Meyer and Earleesha Jackson. For Ipswich, points were hard to come by in the second period, and although Redhead and Danni Casey connected from three-point range late on, the hosts had come back to lead half-time on a Charlotte Finn layup.
Drane emphasised the need for better possession and rebounding at half time, but the crucial factor in the third quarter would turn out to be long-range shooting. Casey and Redhead continued their barrage, combining for five makes in the first four minutes of the third quarter, as the visitors quickly re-established a double-digit lead.
This would turn out to be the final lead change of the game, and even though Solent were able to close to within five points on a few occasions in the final period, Ipswich’s young squad showed impressive maturity in seeing the game home led by multi-talented forward Esther Little, who came up with key scores, rebounds and a block in the final minutes.
Little posted her second impressive double-double of the campaign, finishing with 17 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Harriet Welham also threatened a triple-double, finishing with 15, 11 and eight, while Redhead and Cazey finished on 18 and 17 points respectively.
“As I told the team before the game, this was a really significant win for us,” said Drane after the game. “And while obviously the three-point show that we put on was what got us the lead, what kept us there was the defensive effort and toughness we showed to get through the final five minutes with such poise. For a team of teenagers against a squad of really talented, adult women, that’s not easy to do and hats off to the players.”
BA LONDON LIONS 60-99 IPSWICH BASKETBALL
WNBL Division 1
IPSWICH BASKETBALL opened their 2020/21 season with a comfortable road victory in London at the weekend.
Defending their title after having been crowned champions of the curtailed 2019/20 season by Basketball England, Ipswich have enjoyed a productive preseason with fixtures against WBBL sides, and were eager to demonstrate their performance levels against league opponents for the first time this season.
And the rest of Division I will have been taking note of two very familiar names, as Esther Little (21 points, 22 rebounds, 6 assists) and Harriet Welham (37 points, 10 rebounds) put on commanding performances to set the tone for the Suffolk side.
Little, entering her final season as an IBC and Ipswich Basketball Academy player before heading to prestigious Gonzaga University next autumn, was commanding on the boards at both ends, while Welham displayed her scoring nous to get to the free throw line throughout the contest.
The first quarter was a solid enough start for Coach Nick Drane’s side, with a 24-13 lead by the end of the quarter Ipswich’s reward for restricting the Lions to one field goal in the first seven minutes of the game. The hosts found some rhythm in the middle of the second quarter, though, and behind Bhatoul Khaleefah the Lions were able to match Ipswich’s scoring output in the second period. By half time, Ipswich led 41-30.
The sense of parity was short-lived, however, as a blistering start to the third quarter blew the game open in the visitors’ favour. Charlotte Redhead hit three threes in the quarter, with more coming from Welham, Danni Cazey and Ella Pearson, while the Lions were limited to just nine points in the quarter
Barking Abbey finally found some success from long range in the final frame, and with the game resolved as a contest, both sides scored freely in a 32-20 final quarter. It was Ipswich, though, who emerged as comfortable victors.
“We really wanted to start the league campaign with a strong showing, and I think we did that in the second half”, said Coach Drane. “It sounds a little daft given the scoreline, but I think there’s actually a lot we can do better than we did today. The signs of a shorter-than-usual preseason were there, and I think our best is yet to come.”
Due to the temporary closure of Copleston Sports Centre’s facilities, Drane’s team are set to play at least their first four games on the road this season. Next weekend sees the team travel to the south coast to take on the Solent Kestrels.