Ipswich moved to 13-2, winning their 9th and 10th straight games in the process, as they edge ever closer to a top two finish a home court advantage for the WNBL Division One playoffs this past weekend.
The team faced a grueling double header that included a 6:30pm tip-off in Nottingham on Saturday night, and a 3pm tip off back in Ipswich on Sunday against Barking Abbey, as the team’s unlikely push for the National League championship heats up.
On Saturday in Nottingham, the Suffolk side faced a team who are one of the most improved teams in the league. Nottingham only lost by three point in Ipswich earlier in the season, and have built a reputation for staging dramatic come backs in games, and having lost in the National Cup Final just a week earlier, Nottingham were something of a banana skin for the league leaders.
Nottingham’s now highly feared perimeter shooting is the main reason why they can never be counted out, with multiple players capable of catching fire and running up the scoreboard in a very short space of time. So, it was no surprise to Ipswich that the home side led after the first period, 23-20 – including five made three-point shots from the home team. However, from then on, the game became all about Ipswich’s efficient play. The visitors won the second period 22-15, taking a 42-38 lead into half time. The third period saw Ipswich again show their ruthless streak, extending their lead further, winning the period 23-12 and now holding a commanding 65-50 advantage.
The fourth quarter saw Ipswich take no chances. Fearful of Nottingham’s outside shooting, Ipswich continued to press their foot firmly to the floor, again extending their lead, winning the period by six, eventually winning the game by a comprehensive 93-72 margin.
Harriet Welham 29, Danni Cazey 17, Esther Little 12 points & 25 rebounds.
On Sunday the team were straight back to it, facing 2-9 Barking Abbey, who are in a three-way dogfight with Southwark Pride and Loughborough Riders for the final playoff berth.
Ipswich left nothing to chance, blitzing their opponents from start to finish in a performance that saw every player play at least sixteen minutes, while the tempo and efficiency of the performance never dropping.
The scoring, as ever, was led by Captain Harriet Welham, who helped herself to thirty-five points, while Ella Pearson had an impressive nineteen off the bench.
Harriet Welham 35, Ella Pearson 19, Danni Cazey 10.
“This was an excellent weekend’s work by the girls. Nottingham away is a really difficult fixture, do not be fooled by their league record – they are a very dangerous team. Their ability to make shots is as good as any team in this league and we knew that they could do damage, so I am delighted with the win” Said Ipswich Coach Nick Drane.
“It was great to get back on our home court against Barking and get another win. I don’t think anyone outside of our locker-room thought 13-2 was a possibility at the start of the season, so to be in this position with just three games to play is great”. Added Drane after the Barking win.
Ipswich now have the next two weekends off, which makes for a fascinating final few weeks in WNBL Division One. Anglia Ruskin hold the head to head advantage over Ipswich, meaning if the two teams finish with the same record, the Cambridge side will win the division. However, Ipswich’s 13-2 record, and final three games is more favorable than Ruskin’s 11-2 record. Both team’s still have tough games to play. However, the mere fact that this is even a discussion point for Ipswich this season is something of an unexpected story.
Ipswich didn’t have starting point guard, Coco Leung until the night before the first game of the season. The team barely bad a preseason due to players international commitments and summer holidays and Ipswich played the first half of the season without highly thought of international Esther Little. “We talked at the start of the season about trying to get a top four seed for the playoffs, and if we could be mid-table at Christmas, when Esther was due back, that we would be happy” Said Drane. Ipswich have battled something of a freak run of injuries that included Little missing eleven games, Becky Harwood-Bellis missing seven, Susannah Rafiu missing seven, and Cameron Taylor-Willis missing two.
As it stands, Ipswich have won ten in a row, including a key win over Anglia Ruskin and tough road wins at Solent and Nottingham. If Ipswich can keep their current form, and Anglia Ruskin drop a game, most likely against Solent or Reading, Ipswich could be crowned league champions.
There is still so much basketball left in this season, but things are very exciting in WNBL Division One.
Link to league table: