Ipswich under-18s couldn’t have picked a harder weekend to return from the winter break with an away double header against the two top teams in the conference who both held unbeaten records.
On Saturday Coach Robinson’s team travelled to London to face the exciting Southwark Pride and though started off slowly did not shame themselves despite a depleted team which meant extended minutes for the call ups from the U16s.
Ipswich would ultimately go down 71-50 to a very good team but will be encouraged by the overall performance. Southwark punished Ipswich in transition as a number of sloppy turnovers led to easy baskets. A slow start would create too much of a gap for Ipswich to make up, and though an improved 2nd and 3rd quarter would follow, Ipswich’s efforts eventually tired which led to Southwark extending their lead in the 4th to win the game 70-51.
Ashleigh Pink led the way with 20 points with Maya Price and Frances Musson backing her up with 12 points each. Under-16 standouts Esther Little and Ella Pearson returned full of confidence from a December England camp with terrific contributions particularly on the defensive side of the floor.
“This group of players have the opportunity to be very good, but we have to get better” – Coach Robinson
Sunday saw Ipswich travel away to Sevenoaks Suns who had already handed Ipswich two losses in the league and the cup. Sevenoaks had previously beaten Ipswich by large margins, and though Ipswich were understrength in both of those games you would have been forgiven for expecting much of the same.
Ipswich however started off brilliantly and shot the ball very well from both mid-range and beyond the arc. Ipswich would take a seven-point lead into the second quarter. Perhaps remembering the two previous losses the girls almost seemed to have surprised themselves and took their foot of the gas. A number of poor turnovers led to easy transition points for Sevenoaks and Ipswich went into half time down by 3. Ipswich never quite recovered from this momentum switch and though their dogged defence restricted Sevenoaks to outside shots, Ipswich could not convert enough scoring opportunities and would end up taking another loss 64-50.
Ashleigh Pink once again led the way and constantly put Sevenoaks under pressure with her perimeter shooting and aggressive drives to the basket. The talented point guard led the team with 24 points and showed why she is held in such high regard from many members of the Ipswich Basketball coaching team. Frances Musson again finished in double figures with 14 points in another impressive offensive performance.
Coach Robinson was relatively upbeat considering the two losses but reflective in his evaluation of his team performance.
“The girls learnt a valuable lesson this weekend. Make no mistake both Southwark and Sevenoaks will be there or thereabouts when it comes to playing for a National Championship. If you want to compete with these better teams you have to do the basics right. You cannot miss easy opportunities to score, you can’t afford to turn the ball over cheaply and you have to play every possession with the utmost concentration.
“With everything considered the girls were fantastic this weekend. Coming off the Christmas break and having to play two games in two days with 6 players, 2 of which are U16s, I can’t complain too much. We have come away from home and been more than competitive. But making simple mistakes will ultimately cost you, and for that reason we have come up second best.
“I’ve said it all season long that this group of players have the opportunity to be very good, but we have to get better, both individually and collectively. If the girls are up for that challenge who knows where the season will take us. There’s a lot of basketball still to play and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead of us.”
Ipswich will take a 6-4 record into next weekend when they play at home to Newham Youngbloods with a 2PM tip.