Ipswich are the “Comeback Kids” in topsy-turvy triumph over NASSA

Collective defense came up big for Ipswich at key moments (Image: Nick Winter)

Ipswich Under-16 Boys welcomed unbeaten Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) to Copleston, looking to bounce back from the hammering they received from Brentwood Fire in their last league outing.

Clearly motivated by that result, Ipswich started quickly, and caught the guests on their heels, as all five starters scored in an 11-2 five-minute run to open the game. A quick timeout from NASSA saw them pull it back to 11-6, before the Blues added another 15-2 run. NASSA grabbed four more points in the dying seconds, to end the quarter 28-12, with Lewis Tebbit and Veron Eze leading the charge, combining for 16 points in the opening stanza as Ipswich appeared to be firmly in control of the game.

Appearances though, can be deceiving, as NASSA ramped their defensive intensity up as the quarter wore on, and were now being vocally supported – challenging the “Copleston Crazies” to back their team with the same fervour. With the volume steadily rising in Copleston, NASSA dominated the second quarter – with only Eze getting on the scoresheet for Ipswich who were struggling with foul trouble – as NASSA surged back to take the lead 37-39 on the halftime buzzer.

Coach MacDonald’s charges came back out for the second half determined not to let the game slip away from them, and despite Ethan Price picking up his fourth foul in the quarter, they remained competitive, until a surge from NASSA in the sixth minute edged them ahead by eight points, but Captain Ben Winter continued to attack the basket, scoring and assisting for his team-mates, with Ahmeed Yusoof & Tebbit benefitting as Ipswich showed there was still life in them. In a back-and-forth final few minutes Ipswich cut the lead to five, before another buzzer-beater from NASSA pushed them further ahead 58-65.

As the Blues broke from their huddle between quarters, one person’s words rung in the air: “We are not losing this game. It’s only seven points, let’s go – let’s get it done.” Rather surprisingly, those words were not from Coaches MacDonald or Manning, but were from Veron, and although buoyed by those words, his prophecy looked unlikely early on in the quarter, as neither side could get a stop. Yusoof scored a putback, only for NASSA to answer right back with a pair of baskets. Winter netted twice at the line, and NASSA aswered back again to nudge ahead 62-71. Then late in the shotclock in the fourth minute, Winter netted from distance, and the volume again rose in Copleston. Tom Payne, Winter again and Price brought it all the way back to 71-73 causing a NASSA timeout.

Coming out of the timeout Winter picked up and injury, and needed to sit – with Tebbit coming back in on four fouls. As NASSA re-established a six-point cushion, Winter checked back in, giving Yusoof a much-deserved rest, and dialled it up from long distance again, halving the NASSA lead at 75-78 with two minutes remaining, however, on the next two defensive stand, Price fouled-out, and the guests went one for two at the line.

Winter again answered back, weaving through the lane and flicking a leaning left-handed layup high off the glass to bring it back to a one-possession game, before two straight scores from Eze turned the game on its’ head, with Ipswich taking an 81-79 lead. With Tebbit fouling out next, Rhakeem Edwards-Channer came into the game for the hosts.

Arron MacDonald's squad celebrate their late comeback (Image: Nick Winter)
Arron MacDonald’s squad celebrate their late comeback (Image: Nick Winter)

NASSA went one of two from the line, but grabbed their own rebound, only for Yusoof to foul again, sending them back to the line, one point down and 24 seconds to go – with the opportunity to re-take the lead. NASSA again went one of two, with Eze grabbing his eleventh – and most important – rebound and taking-off downcourt, only to be fouled. After missing the first, Eze notched the second before a NASSA timeout, with 14 seconds remaining.

Coach MacDonald’s side put up a phenomenal defensive stand, drawing a turnover, and off the ensuing inbound, the Blues milked just enough clock for Winter to draw the foul with 1.3 seconds remaining, Winter went one of two at the line to extend the lead to two, intentionally missing the second – leading to NASSA rebounding it and being unable to get off a shot before time expired, with the hosts taking the 83-81 win.

Veron (28), Winter (22) and Tebbit (11) led the scoring, with Eze, Winter and Price all notching double-doubles for Ipswich.

Following the game, Coach Arron MacDonald had this to say: “Firstly, credit to NASSA – I dread to think what our confidence would have been like if we’d fallen behind like that early in the game, but they battled back, and it turned into a superb game of basketball – which I’m grateful we won!”

“After last week’s performance, harsh words were spoken with this group. We took what happened personally, and wanted to make the right choices today. We wanted to choose to move the ball, to stay positive, and to absolutely work as hard as we could for every second of the game.”

“Clearly, that didn’t quite happen – the second quarter was pretty horrific – and the energy in the gym at halftime wasn’t great. Everyone remembered what happened last week and thought ‘here we go again’. Credit to the lads, because that’s one of the best second half performances I’ve been a part of, and to grab a win when you go into the last quarter down seven and in foul trouble really shows the character we have in the group.”

“Veron was superb today, when he’s shooting over 60% from three and connecting at the foul line, he’s trouble – because, what are you going to do with him? When he’s surrounded by Ben Winter – who came up in a big way in the fourth quarter – and Lewis Tebbit who was really hot to start the game, then I think we’ve got a good perimeter attack. Ethan and Tom were superb in and out today, but the star of the game for me was Ahmeed Yusoof. In limited minutes, and without getting himself in foul trouble, he played like he was 6’8” today. If there was a play to be made when he was on the court, he was there to make it – the guy was like a buzzsaw. It was awesome to watch.”

“All of that being said, it’s still a baby step to where we want to be – we’re moving forward, the growth and progression is clear to see, but we’re nowhere near the finished article yet, and with an early trip to Solent next Saturday, and a late trip to Brentwood to face Fire again next week, the tests are coming thick and fast.”

Next up for Ipswich are Solent Kestrels away at 11:00am on Saturday 29th October.