Under-16s cage Leopards, progress in National Cup

Veron and Ben played big roles again as Ipswich under-16s continued their winning streak (Image: Nick Winter)

Ipswich Under-16 Boys hosted Brentwood Black Leopards in the second round of the National Cup, with the winners facing a trip to Brentwood Fire on 30th October.

Ipswich started sluggishly against the Brentwood zone, before a Lewis Tebbit three, a drive from Ben Winter and a pair of free-throws from the returning Veron Eze forced an early timeout from Leopards. As both coaches rotated their benches, Eze kept the scoreboard ticking over, before a putback from Ahmed Yusoof and a dunk from Ethan Price pushed the blues ahead 13-5. Coach Arron MacDonald leant on the bench as the quarter ticked away – but it was the Leopards who had the best of the closing minutes, going on an 8-3 run as Ipswich eked out a 16-13 lead at the end of the first frame.

The second quarter started with MacDonald reinstating some of his starters, and watching the blues go on an 8-0 run thanks to Eze and Jack Barnes, before allowing an open three to break the momentum. Tebbit carried the offensive load while Eze rested, with seven points in a minute, before Winter got in on the act dialling it up from long distance before finding Price for his second throwdown of the game and Joe Hindley for a lay-in. Leopards again went on a run to close the quarter, taking the final 90 seconds 7-3, with all three Ipswich points coming from Yusoof. Ipswich led at the half 41-26.

“It was quite different playing against a zone for 38 minutes today, and I thought we coped with that challenge really well” – Arron MacDonald

Brentwood carried their momentum over from the end of the first half as they limited Ipswich to outside shots in the opening couple of minutes, as the game slowed to a crawl and the score sitting at 43-29. However, Ipswich then went through the gears defensively, and held Leopards to just two points in the last six and a half minutes of the quarter – as Tebbit, Winter and Price connected from range and Price added a third dunk of the day to key a 16-2 run.

Ahmed Yusoof at the free-throw line (Image: Nick Winter)
Ahmed Yusoof at the free-throw line (Image: Nick Winter)

Ipswich opened the final quarter with a 5-0 run leading to a Leopards’ timeout. Coach MacDonald continued to rotate his side throughout the quarter, with Troy Huggins and Matt Spurling also getting onto the scoresheet as the Suffolk side closed out a 78-39 win.

Veron Eze led scorers with 18 in his season debut, supported by Lewis Tebbit with 17 points. Ethan Price was almost perfect from the floor with his 9 points, and Captain Ben Winter added 8 points and 10 assists.

“It was a fairly comfortable win today,” said Coach MacDonald. “I don’t think we consistently gave our best effort, but we went on a few runs where we were superb for stretches of a few minutes at a time, and that was good enough to get the win today.”

“We know we face four straight games now which will be really challenging, starting with Brentwood Fire at home next Saturday, and we know that to compete in those games, we can’t play at anything lower than our maximum intensity and that our communication and shot selection really must improve. That being said, it was quite different playing against a zone for 38 minutes today, having only seen man-to-man defence so far, and I thought we coped with that challenge really well, and improved offensively as the game went on.”

Next up for Ipswich is Brentwood Fire in the league at 1pm on Saturday 15th October at 1pm. Ipswich will also travel to face Fire in the next round of the cup on 30th October.