With the fixture list throwing up a double header weekend for Ipswich, the under-16 Boys opened up against Solent Kestrels on Saturday morning at Copleston, with the Blues running-out comfortable 79-64 winners.
Ben Winter led the charge for Ipswich, with the point guard scoring at will in the first quarter, as he led a personal 7-0 four-minute crusade for the Blues to turn a 6-10 deficit into a 13-10 first quarter lead.
Winter again tormented Solent in the second, leading the way in moving the ball, as Ipswich continued to make the extra pass and play at a high tempo and ran out to a 39-24 lead, with Winter almost outscoring the guests by himself, contributing 22 points. Winter hobbled to the sideline in the second quarter having landed awkwardly from a foul, however, and would not return.
Coach Arron MacDonald turned to his bench, rotating Troy Huggins, Rhakeem Edwards-Channer and Matt Spurling at the point guard spot, while Ethan Price (16 points) and Veron (15) kept the scoreboard ticking over. On a rare off-day for Lewis Tebbit, he stepped into help Price fill the leadership void, and his efforts on defence, along with those of Thomas Payne and Joe Hindley helped the blues to weather a third quarter storm from Kestrels, and ease home to the win.
On Sunday, the boys travelled to Southwark Pride, with Winter giving the side an immediate lift in declaring himself fit to play. The blues again made a fast start, as Tebbit, Veron, Price and Winter combined to devastating effect in building a 12-20 lead after one. However, the hosts bit back in the second quarter, as they relentlessly crashed the glass to obtain second-chance baskets at one end, and Ipswich’s offence ground to a halt at the other, with Southwark edging ahead 37-34 after two.
Going into the second half, Ipswich were positive that the result could come, as Southwark had failed to connect on most of their shots, but the hosts were lights-out in the second half, tacking on 47 points to Ipswich’s 24, as turnovers and missed layups plagued the fatigued Suffolk side en route to an 82-59 loss.
“I think Nick Winter actually summed it up best,” said Coach Arron MacDonald, “good first half, bad second half. That was actually the case for both games to some extent, but it feels like it sums up our weekend.”
“On Saturday, Rhaks, Troy and Matt really stepped-up and dragged us through a sticky patch to a win, and we got a huge contribution from Joe Hindley in limited minutes as well – but it was the first half that built the lead. We defended with effort and passion, and communicated well, and we moved the ball so unselfishly, it was great to watch, because we’ve been working towards it for so long.
“Then we came out on Sunday, and it was like watching Saturday back again, the ball was flying around and no-one could stay in-front of us, and we built a lead from there; but I’ve said how competitive this division is all season, and Southwark might be the most competitive team we’ve played – even when we were running all over them, we just couldn’t shake them.
“In the first half, I don’t think they made a shot beyond three feet, and were up three – and then in the second, everything fell for them and they just pulled away from us.
“I think what this weekend shows again, is just how dominant a player Ben Winter is for us. If he hadn’t have sustained that injury, I think he would have gone for 40 on Saturday, and then who knows how Sunday pans out? He was okay to play, but I could see at times he just wasn’t quite himself, and unfortunately, we rely on Ben being Ben in order to execute our game plan.
“Now we’ve got to dust ourselves off, take a deep breath and go up against four teams who’ve already beaten us, and three teams who – combined – have only lost four games this season. That puts us back in that familiar underdog role, and although it’s going to be a very challenging stretch of games, I fully expect the guys to bounce back – we believe in us.”
Next up for Ipswich is a trip to Worthing Thunder on Saturday 4th February.