Ipswich Basketball Club’s men to face London Westside in play-offs
PUBLISHED: 14:33 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 20 March 2017
Ipswich Men will face London Westside in the first round of the NBL Division Two play-offs, after the Westminster-based club beat local rivals London Pioneers this weekend.
The result ensures Ipswich and Westside will finish fourth and fifth in the regular-season standings of the 12-team division, ensuring Nick Drane’s men enter the play-offs for the fourth straight year.
One uncertainty remains, as either team could be at home for the single-game elimination fixture, depending on the result of Westside’s final regular-season fixture at high-flying Kent Crusaders.
Ipswich, meanwhile, are finished with their regular-season schedule, and enjoying two weekends of rest.
“It’s a terrific achievement to have made the playoffs and even better to be in with a great chance of a home tie in the first round,” said Drane.
“From where we were before Christmas – a record of 4-6, no roster consistency, struggling to find an identity – it has been an unbelievable turnaround to recover to 12-10 and maybe finish in the top four.”
The downtime comes at a key time for Drane, whose squad was getting thinner and thinner as the season drew to a close.
“We finished the final few minutes at Pioneers with five players left, and our captain and point guard have not been fully fit of late,” he pointed out.
“For those two particularly, being able to recover for essentially three weeks before the playoffs could be a massive boost.”
Ipswich’s only game of the weekend saw coach Amy Linton’s Under-16 girls grind out a crucial 50-46 win at Sevenoaks Suns.
Both teams went into the game with the same mindset knowing they had to win to get into the play-offs, with only the top six in the final league table going through.
The first quarter started with both teams exchanging baskets but quickly turned in Ipswich’s favour when Esther Little and Emily Baker hit two consecutive three-pointers to put the team up by five at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Ipswich come out ready to play and within two minutes the Suffolk side had managed to extend their lead to 14 points with some great defensive play.
Sevenoaks then returned the scoring streak, although Ipswich managed to hold on to their lead and extend it slightly to finish the half up by six.
The third quarter saw Ipswich struggle offensively for the longest period of time where the team stopped moving the ball as effectively as they had been earlier in the game, preventing them getting the same open chances.
This quarter also saw Cameron Taylor-Willis and Ines Bowman-Boyles sitting with four fouls each.
In their place, Kenzie Day and Nicole Aston made some all-important offensive and defensive plays. The third quarter ended with Ipswich holding a slender four-point lead.
Ipswich knew they had to put everything into this last quarter defensively. Little did a excellent job at guarding Sevenoaks’s key scorer, limiting her to just three points in the last quarter with Ella Pearson getting stuck in at every opportunity to get Ipswich the vital stops they needed.
With 40 seconds to play Ipswich were up by five. Both teams were in foul trouble, but Baker made some clutch free-throws to stave off the Suns, and Ipswich got the win in what was an excellent team performance.
“I am over the moon to have made it to the play-offs today - and what a way to do it,” said coach Linton.
“Going into the play-offs, where it is ‘win or go home’, this game became almost an extra playoff game for us with both sides needing the win, so it was excellent preparation.
“Our collective attitude and spirit today was superb and I know it will give us a lot of confidence to pick up a big win on the road to start our post-season.”
Little top-scored for Ipswich with 28 points; Taylor-Willis added seven and Baker six.