Ipswich ‘invincibles’ historic treble may never be repeated - Drane

Ipswich celebrate completing the treble with Saturday's NBL Division Two Play-Off Final win. Picture

Ipswich celebrate completing the treble with Saturday's NBL Division Two Play-Off Final win. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Basketball Club coach Nick Drane believes his women’s side’s historic undefeated season is a feat that may never be repeated again.

An outfit made up entirely of Suffolk girls with an average age of little more than 18 sealed the treble on Saturday with a 96-55 win against Derbyshire Gems in the NBL Division Two Play-Off Final.

That victory at the National Performance Centre in Manchester made it a perfect 23 wins from 23 in what is, remarkably, the team’s debut competitive season.

A squad that contains seven players who have represented Great Britain and England at junior level – Harriet Welham, Maya Price, Ashleigh Pink, Esther Little, Ella Pearson, Cameron Taylor-Willis and Danielle Cazey – had already claimed the Division Two title.

Their biggest success, however, was winning the National Cup after beating no fewer than four Division One sides, all away from home, along the way.

“As far as I’m aware a Division Two side has never done this before and I very much doubt it will ever happen again,” said Drane. “To win every single game in every single competition is incredible. Beating all those Division One teams in the cup, I think, validates us as one of the best teams in the country.

“People say I keep banging on about this side being homegrown – hell yes I do, because there is nothing more satisfying as a coach than having success with players you have developed from a young age.

“I took a men’s team from Division Four to the Division Two Play-Off Final, but we had money to hire players and that was a different experience.

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“I’ve got a European Championships silver medal, a national title with our Under-13 boys and am fortune to have done a lot of good things in my career – but this tops the lot. To be honest, I’m not sure how it can be beaten.”

He added: “These girls are like sisters and they have all had their own journeys away from the court. You could make a film out of some of the behind-the-scenes stuff and that’s what has made this all the more satisfying and sentimental.

“I felt burnt out and was ready to take a break from coaching a team this time last year, but working with these girls has totally reinvigorated and inspired me. They are stuck with me now! I said to them in the locker room afterwards ‘let’s make a pact right now that in 20 years time, whatever you are all doing, we get back together’.”

Asked what’s next for this team, Drane said: “The sky is the limit for some of these girls. Three of them – Ashleigh, Maya and Jess (Baker) – are heading off to university later this year. Some of them are destined to play at a very high level in the United States.

“The challenge will be to replace them with the next young players coming through the system. Our Under-16 girls have got a national final coming up and the Under-14s narrowly missed out on a place in the final fours, so the future looks bright.

“We go into a division full of semi-pro teams, but the plan is for little old Ipswich to keep competing for trophies next year.”

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