Thames Valley outlast stubborn Ipswich

Free-scoring Martell McLemore plays defense on free-scoring Luke Mascall-Wright in an entertaining matchup (Image: Pavel Kricka)

Thames Valley Cavaliers 100 – 91 Ipswich Basketball
National League Division II
Uxbridge College

Ipswich Basketball came away from “the most challenging fixture” of their season with a nine-point loss to re-start their National League Division II campaign following the Christmas break.

A visit to league leaders Thames Valley Cavaliers, who had previously beaten the Suffolk side by 13 points in December’s reverse meeting, was never going to be an ideal first game back, but head coach Nick Drane and his staff were enthused by the performance their side put on.

“We may have been down one or two players but the work rate and execution from the eight who travelled was fantastic,” Drane said.

“Talking to my assistants afterwards, we are very confident that if we continue to play at that level, we won’t lose many more games this season.”

The hosts didn’t have it all their own way, as Ipswich led the game for almost the entire first three quarters of the match, stretching the lead to double digits on one or two occasions before invariably being pegged back by Cavaliers’ key men Andre Baptiste and Martell McLemore.

Ipswich won the first and second quarters by three points apiece. Their fast-break game, spurred on by Luke Mascall-Wright, reaped rewards in the opening minutes as Ipswich jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, while in the half-court it was Caleb Fuller and Tom Sadler providing the highlights, with all three reaching double digit scoring by half time.

That lead was whittled down by Thames Valley in the third quarter behind Philip Perre and McLemore, who scored nine apiece in that period. Eddie Ferreira hit a couple of extremely difficult three point shots to keep Ipswich ahead, but the hosts went ahead through Baptiste’s free throws in the final seconds of the quarter.

Having lost the advantage Ipswich’s short roster began to tire and though Drane’s men kept it close throughout the final quarter, with a Mascall-Wright layup cutting the lead to seven with just over two minutes to play, the Cavaliers had enough to see out the game.

Mascall-Wright finished with a team-high 24 points, as well as six rebounds and four assists. Leigh Greenan produced another double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) despite going up against a revolving rotation of three centres 6’10 and over, while Fuller added 16 points and Sadler 14. As in the first game between these two at Ipswich, McLemore was the game’s high scorer with 29.

“Without Daniel Caluico today, and without Josh Apple who is his natural replacement, we did struggle a little to rebound the ball effectively in the second half,” conceded Drane after the game. “That said, Josh is back next week, and if our squad can now stay consistent and bring that level of intensity we’re going to see rapid improvement in our league position.

“Our starting five were great today but I also felt Colin Dockrell, Rory Winter and Cameron Hawes did an excellent job when they came into the game. Unfortunately, Thames Valley are the biggest team in the league – not the ideal time to be missing two of your forwards!

“We’ve got another big game next week at Derby Arrows, and then two games against Liverpool who we haven’t seen yet. It’s time for us to start producing consistently, see what we get out of those three games, and we can go from there.”