Ipswich saw another late lead slip away on Saturday as they went down by just three points to high-flying opposition.
London Pioneers, who featured two former Ipswich players in their line-up, carried the game behind an outstanding shooting display from Luca Piccini, who finished with eight made three-pointers.
A surprisingly lacklustre first half saw Ipswich go in trailing by 13 points at the break, struggling to deal with ex-IBC trialist Vlad Vukovic at one end and not executing at the other end.
However, the hosts found their way after half-time behind the relentless offence of Caleb Fuller, who finished with a team-high 24 points.
Having gone into the final quarter still down by 11 points, Ipswich got scores from Leigh Greenan and Luke Mascall-Wright and excellent defence from the entire squad, anchored by vastly improved rebounding, to claw their way into the lead in the final couple of minutes.
Piccini hit one last big shot, putting the Londoners back in front, and as the two sides then traded free throws, Ipswich were unable to get back on top.
Trailing by two points in the final minute, an old gremlin returned as Ipswich turned the ball over twice in succession, denying themselves a chance at a huge win. Pioneers made one free throw to go up 91-88, and Mascall-Wright’s heave at the final buzzer hit the back of the rim and bounced clear.
“This was a galling one to take, as we were again in a position to win the game,” said Nick Drane after the defeat.
“We have to start trusting ourselves to execute in these pressure situations. It’s not a case of getting into winning positions – we led against Kent, against Derby, and again today – but of carrying them through to 40 minutes instead of 39 and a half.”
Drane suffered another blow late in the contest when point guard Edson Ferreira seemed to roll his ankle, leaving him doubtful for Sunday’s home tie with the 7-1 Thames Valley Cavaliers.
“This is the toughest part of our season by a mile, and to have Eddie out tomorrow would be a big blow, but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
Ipswich saw Fuller lead the team scoring again, followed by Tom Sadler’s 19 points and Leigh Greenan’s 16 points and 13 rebounds. Luke Mascall-Wright had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Vukovic finished with 14 for Pioneers while ex-Ipswich point guard Josh Johnson finished with 13.