Ipswich keep their promotion dream alive with victory over Liverpool

Ipswich players salute the crowd after their victory over Liverpool

Ipswich players salute the crowd after their victory over Liverpool - Credit: Archant

Ipswich head coach Nick Drane hailed his team after a ‘brilliant’ 86-81 win over Liverpool which kept their promotion dreams alive.

The Suffolk side overcame injuries to key players and a recent run of poor form to claim a victory which moved them up to joint second in the league table.

Liverpool were talented, tough and would not quit. Their losing record so far this season is not reflective of their quality, as they proved at Copleston on Saturday.

Ipswich handed a debut to seven foot defensive specialist Tendai Simbai, brought in as cover with starting big-men Tom Sadler and Leigh Greenan both clearly carrying injuries that are going to restrict them, probably for some time, and Drane opted to extend the playing time and role of 16-year-old England International Caleb Fuller.

Both changes sparked life into the team at key moments as Ipswich scrapped their way to a huge 86-81 win.

Leading the line for the side were the sensational backcourt tandem of Josh Johnson and Sam Newman, who combined for 11 three-pointers and 45 points. Newman, who scored 28 points, set a senior team record with eight triples while Johnson (17) didn’t miss, going three from three from beyond the arc. Newman also made two key defensive stops in the final seconds, to seal the deal for the boys in blue.

Johnson added seven assists and six rebounds, with just one turnover to continue his outstanding all round play to start the season.

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For Liverpool, star guard Jack Hudson collected six points, eight rebounds and eight assists while Tadas Merkelis matched Newman’s eight threes on his way to 28 points.

For Ipswich, the defensive presence of new recruit Simbai was there for all to see.

The big man collected six points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in just 12 minutes of action while Tyme Regent-Bascombe added much needed defensive intensity.

Ipswich took a 10-point lead into the half-time break, and opened things up to 13 early in the third, but Liverpool would not quit.

With Sadler and Greenan not close to full fitness, Drane was forced to try some different things in the second half to bring home the win.

Behind the play of Newman and Johnson, and the spark provided by Fuller and Regent-Bascombe’s defence, Ipswich held on for an invaluable victory.

Drane said: “That was a brilliant win. Performance wise, yes I think we can play a lot better.

“But, right now we will take a win any way we can. With Leigh and Tom both struggling physically we relied on our bench to step up, and they did in a big way.

“Sam and Josh did a lot of the heavy lifting offensively, and both were outstanding but what Colin, Tyme, Caleb and Tendai gave us as reserves was massive.”

Despite playing hurt, captain Sadler notched 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists in just 20 minutes while big-man Greenan collected 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in the same amount of time.

Speaking of the impact of new addition Simbai, Drane added; “He gives us a defensive presence that is just phenomenal.

“He’s probably an inch shorter than Leigh but with size 20 feet, hands like shovels and a seven foot six wing span he is considerably longer than any big man in the league.

“His length really is like nothing people will have seen before.”

Ipswich travel to London Westside this weekend hoping to build on the performance against Liverpool, with an opportunity to put pressure on the likes of Nottingham and Loughborough, who are the early favourites for the NBL Division Two title.