Ipswich Basketball Club's Senior Women moved to 3-0 after a scrappy win against bottom of the table Nottingham Trent University on Saturday, taking the game by a single point 70-69, having led by double figures with five minutes to play.
The new look Ipswich have now ground out three wins from three, despite a complete roster overhaul and a catalogue of injuries to key players Susannah Rafiu, Hannah Gray and Alice Fallon, meaning Head Coach Nick Drane has had to further rely on his new faces, as well as young academy players Abbie Yorke and Christabel Osarobo stepping up to the senior level - who both made outstanding contributions.
The game looked comfortable for Ipswich from half time onwards, with the teams lead anything between eight and fifteen points, however as Nottingham chased late, some sloppy Ipswich play allowed Trent to make an unlikely late run, including a basket at the buzzer that brought the visitors to within one.
After the game a relieved Nick Drane had this to say “We would have snapped your hand off if you had told us we would be 3-0 to start the season, so we are really happy with that - but we know there are tougher days ahead”.
Drane is surely referring to Sunday’s road trip to league leading Southwark Pride, who look in good form and have retained almost their entire roster from last season, where they pushed Ipswich in both league and playoff play, finishing as runners up in both.
Ipswich, as it has been well publicised, have lost four of their starting five from last season, as well as key bench players - so the news that Susannah Rafiu’s knee injury will keep her out for the entire season could not have come at a worse time. With no timetable for a return for Hannah Gray and Alice Fallon still a couple of weeks away, the likes of Ava Battese and Yassin Belle-Mabye will continue to be asked to lead the line alongside captain Cameron Taylor-Willis, who’s averaging career bests in points (13) and rebounds (14.7) so far this season. Academy stars Saruna Gudza and Olivia Forster will also continue to be asked to play major minutes in the coming weeks as the team aim to keep the momentum going after an excellent start to the season.
Ava Battese's early offense was key to Ipswich building their lead (Photo: Pavel Kricka)
If Ipswich can stay in touching distance of the likes of CoLA, Loughborough, ARU and Solent during the early stages of the season it will be very interesting to see how far the backbone of Taylor-Willis, Belle-Mbaye and Battese can lead this young group.
Ipswich are on the road to CoLA Southwark Pride on Sunday before they host Cardiff at Copleston the following week