The Ipswich Basketball Club Senior Women re-commence their defence of the WNBL League Title on Saturday as they host Reading Rockets at the Copleston Centre at 2pm.
The National League was put on hold for the Month of January while Basketball England sought funds to provide all clubs with the required testing equipment to enable the league to continue. Now, with the players following the strict government guidelines, and a regimented twice a week testing regime, the team are ready to take the court this weekend.
“Before we even think about the actual on court side of things, we must give enormous credit to Basketball England for investing such a massive amount of funds to enable elite competitions to continue” Said Ipswich Basketball Club Chairman Josh Carson. Carson added “It’s testament to the club culture that we have here in Ipswich that we have been able to get the girls back on court. We have a team of volunteers who are coming in each week to deliver the testing, to enable the coaches and players to get on court and represent this club”.
Saturday’s game against Reading see’s Ipswich suit up for the first time in two months, their first game since the heartbreaking 77-76 loss to Loughborough just before Christmas. That Loughborough loss was not only the team’s first loss of the season, but their only loss of any kind in the calendar year of 2020. Very much making Ipswich one of the teams to beat for a lot of neutrals, as we head into 2021. However, Ipswich Coach Nick Drane is very quick to point out that his team have not done anything yet “Championships are not won in the first half of the season, everyone knows that. We want to be there for the final game of the season, the playoff final. We are not thinking about being league champions in January – we are just thinking about getting better”. Drane’s roster, as will many around the league, has been hit hard by the lockdown, meaning that several of his academy players, who play significant roles for the women, will not be available due to them being at home, away from Ipswich, during this time. “COVID affects everyone, so you won’t be hearing any excuses from us. The players we have available are tried and tested at this level and we are looking forward to the challenge”.
Reading pose an interesting threat to Ipswich. The Rockets currently have a 2-3 record, but are a team that always push Ipswich to their limit. Last season, in the league Ipswich won a classic, by a single point, while a day later the Rockets got revenge, beating the Suffolk side in the National Cup – Ipswich’s last competitive loss before the Loughborough game a year later. In February last year, Ipswich famously edged out Reading by three points in the u18 National Cup Final.
The Rockets have a number of talented players, not least, athletic wing Sitota-Gines Espinona, who is averaging 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds – a player that is an All WNBL level talent. Elsewhere the Rockets can boast the services of powerful inside player Gaila Comensana and savy guard Candela Hermida Nunez as the Rockets again bring a number of high-quality Spanish players into the National League.
While the Ipswich squad has been struck by player availability, the club still have the league MVP and leading scorer Harriet Welham (25.9ppg) to lean on, while Ester Little is a two-time WNBL player of the week, averaging 14.7 points and 16.4 rebounds, making her currently the most efficient player in the league, as well as GB players Cameron Taylor-Willis and Ella Pearson, and of course, experienced stars such as Danni Cazey and Coco Leung.
Ipswich need to win this game to return to the top of WNBL Division One. Loughborough (6-3) currently sit ahead of them based on their head-to-head win over Ipswich, although IBC’s 6-1 record has them with the best winning percentage in the conference.
The game will be streamed live via the club Facebook page, and you can follow the stats live via the Basketball England website.
“It’s been a monumental effort just to get the girls back on the court, and we are incredibly grateful. We all feel a heightened sense of responsibility to the rest of the club, who are not able to even train let alone play – so every time we step on the court, it’s for them as much as for us” Added Drane.
The game tips off at 2pm on Saturday. Tune in from 1:55pm and listen to our matchday commentary team of Jack Goodrich, Adam Robinson and Dave King as part of the game day build up.