Welham hits a clutch shot to send Ipswich to National Cup Final

Ipswich star Harriet Welham celebrates as they reach the National Cup Final. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich star Harriet Welham celebrates as they reach the National Cup Final. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Women’s National Cup semi-final Bristol Flyers 72 Ipswich 74 Ipswich Basketball Club’s Senior Women booked their place in the National Cup Final in their first season together as they beat higher league Bristol Flyers 74-72 on the road.

Ipswich celebrate as the final buzzer goes at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich celebrate as the final buzzer goes at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Bristol had the better of the first quarter, with Ipswich starters Ashleigh Pink and Harriet Welham both having to take an early seat due to foul trouble. The host capitalized, taking a 23-17 lead.

The second quarter was Ipswich’s best, and where the team was able to assert their dominance on the game. A balanced attack, with baskets from Welham, Esther Little (14 points), Amy Linton and Pink (14) was aided by an outstanding defensive effort, allowing only seven points in the period.

Ipswich guard Ashleigh Pink attacks the Flyers defence from mid court. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich guard Ashleigh Pink attacks the Flyers defence from mid court. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Anchored by the physical presence of Maya Price and the efforts of Danni Cazey, guarding Bristol’s best player, Ipswich began to build their lead – taking a 38-31 lead into the half-time break.

The third and fourth quarters were intense, with Bristol gradually clawing their way back into the game, and both teams making key plays at both ends of the floor.

Ipswich head coach Nick Drane gives instructions to his team during a time-out. Picture: PAVEL KRICK

Ipswich head coach Nick Drane gives instructions to his team during a time-out. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Welham, who led Ipswich with 23 points, continued to be a thorn in the hosts side, while Danni Cazey came alive, scoring eight points in a key fourth quarter run.

Late in the game, with Bristol holding a narrow lead, Little, Welham and Cazey connected on huge baskets, while Price came up with a massive defensive play to give Ipswich possession, with the game tied, with less than 20 seconds to play.

Esther Little gets into the key to make a layup against tough defence at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRI

Esther Little gets into the key to make a layup against tough defence at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Most Read

As Ipswich played patiently, moving the ball to get the best shot for the team, Welham found herself open on the three-point line.

Welham connected on the biggest shot of the game, with the clock winding down and while Bristol were able to mount one more offence, drawing a foul and heading to the free-throw line, they were only able to make one of two, and Ipswich held on.

Ipswich captain Amy Linton making a fast break lay up atBristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich captain Amy Linton making a fast break lay up atBristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA - Credit: Archant

Ipswich face local rivals Essex in the National Cup Final at UEL on January 21. Essex are currently sitting comfortably at the top of WNBL Division One, with a record of 11-1 (8-1 in the league) in all competitions, while Ipswich are 8-0. Essex’s single loss of the season to date was away to Bristol.

Head coach Nick Drane said: “To get to the National Cup Final is special, I am not going to pretend it isn’t.

“We have had to do this the hard way, going through a tough Division Two team in Northampton before having to beat three excellent Division One teams, in Loughborough, Reading and now Bristol, all away from home.

“We said at the start of the season that the cup would be a great way to test ourselves against the best teams and make a run at doing something special – we know it’s going to take a special effort in the final against Essex Blades, but we are more than up for the challenge.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter