WNBL Division One Playoffs – Solent Kestrels 89 Ipswich 70
Ipswich bowed out of the playoffs at the quarter final stage, drawing the curtain on a successful first season in Basketball England’s top flight.
The team has had the unenviable task of trying to follow last years ‘Perfect Season’, in the countries best division, having lost two key starters and having had to battle significant injuries all season. Across 23 games in all competitions, the team battled their way to a 12-11 record, finishing in 6th place in league play while reaching the final eight stage of both the National Cup (Which they won from Division Two in 2017/2018) and the National Playoffs.
Ipswich’s season showed much promise, after winning their first two games in convincing fashion, but then the injuries started to mount up. Every time the team found some momentum, something happened to derail that hard earned momentum. New star, Becky Harwood-Bellis, started the season on the sidelines, as did young prospect Susannah Rafiu. As the two players returned to action, MVP Harriet Welham was then struck down with a nasty knee injury, forcing her to play on one leg for much of the rest of the season. Despite the uphill struggle, the team started 2019 on a four game winning streak, including a huge 32 point win on the road to eventual league winners Bristol Flyers – to give an indication of the potential of this team when firing on all cylinders. The winning streak came to an end when the team lost on the road to lowly Birmingham, following the latest injury, a broken bone to the foot of GB Junior International Cameron Taylor-Willis. CTW’s injury seemed to take the air out of the Ipswich team’s sails, having battled back into a top four position. Four losses in the next five put any hopes of a top four finish to bed and left the team waiting to see who they would be travelling to in the post season. Despite all of the set-backs, the team battled their way to an admirable 9-9 league record, which considering the run of back luck, and tender age of several of the players in this team, was a huge achievement in itself…
“If last season was historic, this season was very much a learning experience” said Ipswich Coach Nick Drane. “It makes you appreciate what we did, and makes you realise that so few people will taste anything like that. This season has been a far more realistic senior national league season. We’ve had our ups and downs, played superbly and terribly and in the end I think we have finished about where most people would have expected us to. We are a good division one team, which is a great step having been in division two last season. The next step is to be a team that can contend for trophies at this level – which I do believe we are already close to being”