A loud and supportive crowd at the Copleston Centre welcomed the Ipswich Under 16 Boys for their first home tie of the season, as they welcomed London United.
Neither side got the best of the opening exchanges, as Ipswich’s defence frustrated the guests in the open court, while United’s length was limiting Ipswich to single opportunity offences. With six minutes gone in the quarter, Ipswich nudged ahead 9-8, while both sides battled foul problems with their interior players. As the quarter wore on, the Blues found their rhythm offensively, going on an 11-5 run to close the quarter ahead 20-13.
The Suffolk side started the second quarter on a tear, streaking ahead on a 10-2 run fuelled by Ben Winter, Lewis Tebbit and Matt Spurling on the perimeter; however, with Ethan Price and Tom Payne both picking up their third fouls, the Blues’ reserves were called upon, with youngsters Troy Huggins and Rhakeem Edwards-Channer were introduced alongside Jack Barnes.
As United went on a run of their own, both Danny Manning and Paris Owen were introduced for their season debuts – but the blues were unable to stem the tide from United, who pinched the quarter by a couple of points, cutting into Ipswich’s lead even more as Yusoof managed to pick up two personal fouls and a technical – resulting in his fouling out – in just 90 seconds leading up to halftime. Ipswich held a 33-28 lead, but momentum was firmly with the visitors.
Ipswich began the second half brightly, but a flurry of whistles followed as a series of minor scuffles and trash talking between the teams derailed the blues, who saw Payne, Price and Winter each pick up their fourth personal fouls as United tied it up at 47 apiece at the end of the third, despite an excellent defensive effort throughout the quarter from Payne, Tebbit and Joe Hindley.
With just a minute gone of the fourth, Coaches MacDonald and Manning were forced into a timeout, as the hosts had gone on a 4-0 run and Copleston suddenly felt very quiet for the first time in the day. The Coaches turned to Price, celebrating his 15th birthday and in a spot of foul trouble, and asked him to put the team on his back. Price responded with a tear of his own, scoring six points and adding a blocked shot and a pair of rebounds for good measure in an 8-0 run, as the noise began to grow again from the supporters.
Back-to-back and-one’s from Tebbit and Winter swung momentum firmly in Ipswich’s favour and restored a ten-point cushion with six minutes to play, and from there, Winter controlled the tempo of the game and saw out a 69-57 win for Ipswich to move to 2-0.
Lewis Tebbit again led the scoring with 19 points, assisted by Ben Winter (13 points, 6 assists, 5 steals), Ethan Price (11 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists) and Tom Payne (10 points, 10 rebounds).
“United worked relentlessly, right the way to the final buzzer – they had the momentum in the game through the middle periods, right up to the start of the fourth, which was a bit of a shock given that it seemed we were in complete control for the first fifteen minutes of the game,” said Coach Arron MacDonald after the game.
“We already know the issues that plagued us through that stretch. Defensively, it started because of dumb fouls – they were the result of us breaking our defensive rules and going quiet. On offence, they were daring us to shoot because of foul trouble, and we took the bait all too often.”
“But what’s great is that we snapped out of it. Our bench raised their game and lifted the team, and as for the home crowd, it felt more like we were at Duke with the ‘Cameron Crazies’ than a regular season game today – the support we received from the Ipswich Basketball family was immense, and I know the guys really appreciated it – and wanted to repay everyone with the win.”
“Ethan’s performance kind of summed us up today. When he was focused on one play at a time, and playing to his strengths, he was superb. He becomes a positive cheerleader when he’s on the bench with foul trouble, then regroups and leads us when our guys were looking around to figure out who’s taking over the game. He was utterly superb when we needed him most.”
“Right now, we’re at 2-0, and if anyone had offered us that a few weeks ago, we’d have snatched their hands off. But that doesn’t distract us from our goals; we want to be the best team we can be. Although we’ve taken two positive steps, there’s a lot of work to be done to get there, so our focus is just on being better the next time we take the court.”
Up next for Ipswich is a home tie against Brentwood Black Leopards in the National Cup, at 2:00pm on Sunday 9th October.