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Match Reports: Mixed Weekend for Senior Women

WNBL Division One

Ipswich Basketball 70 – City of London Academy 65

Copleston Sports Centre

WNBL Division One

Ipswich Basketball 76 – Bristol Flyers 86

Copleston Sports Centre

Ipswich Basketball Club’s Senior Women experienced their highest and lowest points of the season so far within a twenty-four-hour period this weekend, as they defeated the previously 12-0 Southwark Pride on Saturday, before slipping up to the 5-10 Bristol Flyers on Sunday.

Going into the weekend, the ‘form book’ suggested that Ipswich should come away with a win and a loss, which they did – just the wrong way round! On Saturday the team hosted the runaway league leaders, City of London Academy (CoLA) Southwark Pride. CoLA, like Ipswich are a team who are made up almost entirely of u19 academy players – Ipswich only have Yassin Belle-Mbaye and Ava Battese who do not fall into this category. And this match up, across the various age groups and competitions, has become the flagship match-up in girls and women’s national league over the last few years. Only last month, CoLA defeated Ipswich in the u18 National Cup Final, and it was last season that CoLA finished runners-up to the Suffolk side both in the WNBL regular season and playoffs. This season, in the WNBL, CoLA have taken over from Ipswich as the powerhouse team at the top of the league, and overwhelming favourites. So, when Ipswich defied the odds and recorded a famous 70-65 win at Copleston on Saturday, the talk of the league champions performing a minor-miracle and mounting a challenge for a top two finish was real. Ipswich moved to 8-3, with a win that other teams in the chasing pack were unlikely to record. However, in leaving everything on the floor on Saturday, it became clear that the Ipswich ladies didn’t have enough left in the tank for Sunday’s game against a talented Bristol Flyers team, who’s 86-76 win will have everyone in the league on notice.

Speaking after the weekend Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane said “Saturday’s win is up there with some of the best win’s we have had since I took over the women’s team in 2017. There is something special about beating a team of that calibre, and showed everything that’s good about our team and this club. Sunday, showed how while we are capable of beating anyone on our day, we are also not at a level where we can take anything for granted. Bristol came in and played a hell-of-a-game, and deserved to beat us”.

A brilliant team performance on Saturday handed CoLA their first loss of the season (Photo: Gerflor)

Ipswich have now moved to 8-4, leaving them in 4th place in the league, a record very few people would have predicted in the summer, where the team was essentially re-invented, building around the one remaining player (Cameron Taylor-Willis) from the previous four almost ‘fairytale’ years. Above them are CoLA (12-1), Loughborough (10-2) and Thames Valley (8-2). It should also be noted that Anglia Ruskin are sitting on an 8-3 record while Team Solent Kestrels (6-6) and Cardiff Archers (6-7) are teams that, like Bristol, have a record that doesn’t come close to demonstrating how dangerous they are. Ipswich could realistically still fight for second place in the regular season, but could just as easily slip as low as eighth.

Sunday’s loss to Bristol means that Ipswich, for now at least, look unlikely to be able to infiltrate the top two, which would secure home court advantage through the playoffs. However, like those teams around them, if they can string some wins together in the coming weeks, a top four finish is a realistic possibility, and when you consider that Ipswich lost seven of their eight leading players from 2020/2021, and have essentially had to re-build their team this season, and top four finish is more than many people would have dreamed of.

Ipswich have a jam-packed schedule in the coming weeks. They travel to Cardiff this weekend, before hosting Worcester on the 19th. From then its five games in fifteen days as the final stage of the season is a lot closer than it feels.



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