Ipswich upset Pioneers to reach cup final
Ipswich are through to a cup final for the second year running as the Senior Men upset London Greenhouse Pioneers on Sunday to advance to the Patrons Cup Final, writes Rob Schatten.
Fans at Citysport in London, featuring a small but loud travelling section in Ipswich blue, were treated to a shootout in the first half as both teams scored at unusually high rates throughout the first half.
The score reached 15-15 inside the first five minutes and while Pioneers would go on to establish an eight-point lead by the end of the first quarter, Cameron Hawes and Ethan Price led a second quarter comeback which saw Ipswich draw level at 54-54 going into half-time.
Both Ipswich and the Pioneers shot 55% from the field in the first half.
Hawes registered 17 of his 22 points in the first half, but it was forward Price who stepped up in the second half, contributing 20 of his game-high 32 points in a well-rounded offensive performance.
The hosts were led once again by sharp-shooting American guard Kyle Diaz, who finished with 28 points. Diaz was held to 13 in the second half as Hawes, Rabi Rai, Blake Read and Stephen Hemmings took turns in guarding him.
Reserve Timi Tinubu stepped up for the hosts, however, and the game remained close into the final minutes. There were five lead changes in the final quarter, and a Diaz three-pointer put the Pioneers up 94-90 with just over two minutes to play.
Ipswich’s outstanding team defence held the visitors scoreless the rest of the way.
A Price three-point play brought the Suffolk side back within one point, before Rai converted a go-ahead lay-up to put Ipswich ahead for good at 95-94. Price then forced a turnover and was fouled, making both free-throws for a three-point lead with 18 seconds to play.
The Pioneers got the ball to Diaz, but Price switched off a screen to block the American’s attempt at tying the game. Hawes flipped the loose ball straight back to Price, now leading the break, and the Ipswich Basketball Academy standout slammed home a two-handed dunk to complete the victory.
“This was the kind of performance a coach dreams about on his way to a game,” said head coach Ellis.
“In an extremely fast-paced game, against an up-tempo, shooting team, we maintained our focus and kept playing great team basketball. The offensive production in the second half was outstanding.
“I think the biggest difference was the hustle plays we made in the last two minutes. Steve and Blake forced turnovers, Rabi and Ethan diving on loose balls in the final minute. Those extra possessions made the difference.”
Price finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds. Hawes added 22, and Rai (15) and Veron Eze (13) were also in double-figures.
Diaz racked up 28 for the hosts while Francesco Rinaldi scored 17 and Tinubu finished with 13 off the bench.
Ipswich will now face Westminster Warriors, who beat league leaders Liverpool in the other semi-final, at UEL Sportsdock on Sunday, February 10 in the Patrons Cup final.
The tension of a final-minute victory was only amplified after Saturday’s events, in which a second-half fightback fell one possession short as Ipswich lost at home to East London All-Stars.
Down 14 at half time and struggling to deal with another American, this time the bruising inside presence of All-Stars centre Kyle Gouveia, Ipswich almost pulled off a stunning comeback and trailed by just a point inside the final minute. However, a crucial offensive rebound by All-Stars guard Max Denham saw him get to the free throw line and give the visitors a three-point lead.
Ipswich had one opportunity to send the game to overtime but Ben Winter’s three-point attempt was off the mark.
Five players reached double figures for Ipswich. Hawes and Price scored 14 each, Price adding 14 rebounds to make it two double-double performances for the weekend.