Double defeat for Ipswich as new seasons gets underway

Veron Eze led Ipswich with 19 points . Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Veron Eze led Ipswich with 19 points . Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

NBL Division II Ipswich Basketball 71-86 Sussex Bears NBL National Cup Hemel Storm 107-80 Ipswich Basketball

Ipswich Basketball’s senior men suffered a setback this weekend as they dropped their opening league game of the season at home to Sussex Bears, before a short-handed squad put in a much-improved performance in defeat at Division I side and National Cup holders Hemel Storm on Sunday.

Saturday’s game marked the start of the 2018/19 Division II campaign, and while Ipswich had been unbeaten in pre-season, including two wins over Division II opposition, the story of the game was in the 10-2 lead Sussex carved out in the first two minutes.

The home side spent the rest of the game trying to close the gap, getting within five on numerous occasions, but the visitors got enough offense from their star American Chris Towns to stay ahead.

Veron Eze led Ipswich with 19 points as he found success attacking the wings of Sussex’s defense. Colin Dockrell, Eivydas Aleksa and Ethan Price shared the scoring behind him, with 12 points apiece.

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Once Sussex had leapt out to their early advantage, Ipswich pegged their guests back over the course of the first quarter to end it down by six at 16-22. The second continued in much the same vein, Ipswich closing the gap until a Sussex run at the end of the quarter padded their lead back out to 41-31 at half time.

With Aleksa staving off foul trouble in the third quarter, Eze shouldered the scoring load as Ipswich attempted to make headway into the gap, but Sussex found a James Felstead jump shot or Joe Carter layup to respond to every Ipswich push.

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Down nine to start the final quarter, Ipswich were unable to keep up the pressure and eventually Sussex eased out to a 15-point victory.

With Aleksa having sustained a wrist injury and guard Rabi Rai also unavailable, Ipswich then travelled to Division I side Hemel with just six fully healthy players for Sunday’s National Cup tilt.

The first quarter indicated a comfortable afternoon ahead for the hosts, as they took advantage of Ipswich’s slow defensive rotation to hit several open three-pointers and close the first quarter up 26-11.

But the Suffolk side displayed pride and grit aplenty over the next 30 minutes as they held the gap around the 15-point margin thereafter, getting as close as 11 following back to back three-pointers from forward Jed Robinson in the third quarter.

Eventually, Hemel tacked on ten points in the final two minutes to pad their margin of victory to 27, a gap which belied the hard-fought nature of the majority of the contest.

Dockrell was in fine form as he shot over 50% to finish with 28 points. Cameron Hawes contributed a further 16 points, while Eze and Robinson each finished with 11.

“This was always going to be a tough weekend, but it’s been looking tougher all week,” admitted coach Rob Schatten after Sunday’s performance.

“We were expecting to be a little short-handed this weekend as it was, but losing Ben Winter and now Eivydas to injury this week made Sunday’s game all the more daunting.

“I’m extremely impressed with the way our six guys went up against twelve Division I players in their court and made them battle for forty minutes. We can take a lot of positives from that performance and know that when we get our other five players back from injury we are going to be a very tough side to beat in Division II this season.”

Ipswich travel to East London All-Stars next Sunday evening for their first road game of the league campaign. The team are next at home on Saturday, 3rd November, when they welcome promotion contenders Liverpool.

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