Ipswich Basketball Club set for biggest game in their history in EBL Division Two Play-Off Final against Derby Trailblazers
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Basketball Club’s senior men’s team play for a national title this weekend in what head coach Nick Drane says is the biggest game in their history.
The Suffolk side are looking to cap another remarkable season when they face the Derby Trailblazers in the English Basketball League Division Two Play-off Final at the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester on Sunday (10.45am tip).
Drane’s club finished third in their first season in Division Two, following consecutive promotions, and now stand a game away from national glory.
In three meetings this season with the league champion Trailblazers Ipswich have prevailed twice, meaning Drane is in bullish mood ahead of the season finale.
“This is the biggest game we’ve ever had,” he said yesterday from Germany, where he is serving as England under 18’s assistant coach at a European tournament.
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“We played down the Patrons Cup final (a loss to the Huddersfield Heat) as it wasn’t a priority for us, but to be in a play-off final means that we have a chance to win the championship.”
Ipswich avenged that Patrons Cup final loss to league runners-up Huddersfield in the play-off semi-finals, having first crushed old rivals the Worcester Wolves at Copleston in the first round.
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And, with Derby and Huddersfield already promoted to EBL Division One courtesy of their league placings, Drane believes his club can make a strong case to join them, should they win on Sunday.
“I think if we win there’s a very strong case for us to be promoted,” he explained.
“The regular season everywhere else in the world is about getting a good seed for the play-offs and then trying to win it all – that is what should matter.
“I didn’t expect to do this well this season, even though I always expect to win every game!
“We’ve had some quite significant hurdles to leap over and we’ve shown great character to get to this point.”
Drane’s side have been battling injuries to key players for the final few weeks of the season, with captain Tom Sadler inparticular struggling with a leg injury.
But, with a week off between their semi-final win and this Sunday’s final, Ipswich are fighting fit again and champing at the bit to take their big chance in Manchester.
“We will be at full strength,” Drane said.
“Tom hasn’t been fully fit for six weeks, but he will give us what he can on Sunday.
“If there was a player I could choose to play hurt it would be him because he is so experienced.”
The last time these two sides met, at Copleston in January, Ipswich claimed a 75-70 win in what was a thrilling back and forth battle.
The physical clash saw star 7-foot centre Leigh Greenan suffer a cut forehead from a stray elbow and return to the game sporting a Terry Butcher-esque bandage as he inspired his battling squad.
And the game was sealed with just seconds left as Sadler calmy sank two free throws to ice the victory.
Drane expects no different this time around.
“They beat us on their floor and we beat them twice at ours so neither side needs to change much as we know what we’ve been doing is working.
“Derby are a big physical team team, but we seem to have the edge on them in that we’re bigger and more powerful.
“I think the game will come down to who wins the physical battle, and I think we can do that.”
Buy Tuesday’s papers for a full report, reaction and pictures from Ipswich’s bid for glory in Manchester