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Match Reports: Ipswich Women go 2 for 2 to start the year

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.”