Ipswich survive Mohawk comeback in north-east

Leigh made this a common sight on Saturday, in his best showing of the season (Image: Pavel Kricka)

Tees Valley Mohawks 92-94 Ipswich Basketball
National League Division II
Teesside University

Ipswich Basketball survived a late comeback by hosts Tees Valley Mohawks to take a huge victory on the road after an incredible fourth quarter.

Having led by nine with 80 seconds to play, Ipswich’s lead was eroded by a key sequence: after Mohawk guard Laurie Owen scored on a layup, the hosts’ star CJ Jones stole an inbounds pass to cut the lead to five. Following that, the game descended into a long sequence of fouls and high-pressure free throws.

Following made free throws by Caleb Fuller, Leigh Greenan and Daniel Caluico, Colin Dockrell’s smart foul prevented the hosts from hitting a three to tie the game. After Jones hit two free throws, Dockrell made one of two to give Ipswich a two-point lead. Luke Mascall-Wright then blocked Jones’ final shot as time expired to complete a spectacular victory.

The entire game had been an extremely close affair with Ipswich amassing one brief double-digit lead but the game mostly played within five points. Jones, a hot-shooting American guard, kept up his impressive averages with a game-high 38 points, but the rest of his team were limited by a committed Ipswich effort on defense.

For the visitors, Greenan had his most dominant performance for some time with 24 points – on just 13 shots – and 18 rebounds. Fuller had another stellar outing with 28 points for the second straight game, along with eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks; while Mascall-Wright again went close to a triple-double with 20, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Ipswich edged a close first half to creep to a 48-42 advantage at half time behind Greenan’s low-post dominance and the team’s new, higher-tempo transition attack. At the other end, Ipswich were giving up points to the near-unstoppable Jones, but none of the other Mohawks scored over eight points in the first half.

“We had a game plan to slow down the star man and try to limit his team-mates as much as possible, and we executed it almost to perfection in the first half,” said head coach Nick Drane. “When Jones shoots 7 for 11, you have to just accept that – Eddie Ferreira was doing a tremendous job defensively and the guy just hits shots from wherever he takes them!”

Ipswich briefly extended their lead early in the third quarter but behind several transition scores the Mohawks rallied all the way back to lead, 67-65, going into the final period.

Drane’s troops rallied again early in the fourth behind quick baskets from Fuller and Greenan, and re-took the lead, stretching it out to eight before that dramatic finish.

“We really turned it on today,” said Drane post-game. “It’s a hell of a long way from Ipswich to Middlesbrough, but we did a fantastic job of being prepared and professional about it, getting up here early, and that really showed in the way we played early.

“I really don’t know who not to call out for praise today. Caleb, Luke and Leigh all play like that every game, we’ll be extremely difficult to defend. The youngsters coming in – Rory Winter getting multiple offensive rebounds, Cameron Hawes hitting two big threes… and at the other end, led by Danny and Eddie, we were much much better than we have been.”

This was only part of Ipswich’s work for the weekend, as their next game was against Newcastle in a 2.30pm tip on Sunday.