Ipswich travelled to Worthing Thunder to take on the side with the best record in the league, falling to a 76-69 loss.
The game started brightly, as Ipswich attacked and created three open looks – and three straight Thunder turnovers, but were unable to finish at the rim. Over the opening minutes, the Blues eked-out a 6-8 lead before Thunder rattled-off a 14-0 four-minute run, in which they capitalised on a number of second-chance baskets. Ipswich closed out the quarter strongly, but faced a double-digit deficit, 22-12.
The sides traded baskets, and runs, through the second quarter, with Ipswich holding their own against Worthing, who added to their lead through a second-chance buzzer-beater, heading into the second half up 43-31.
Coach Arron MacDonald went back to his starters to begin the third, with a focus on rebounding, and a change in offensive emphasis, the Ipswich coach hoped to eat into the lead – but the hosts had other ideas, quickly running-off an 8-0 run to open, leading to a quick timeout. Although Lewis Tebbit came back from the break firing, so too did Worthing, who extended their lead to 66-37.
With three minutes of the quarter left, the Suffolk side began to fight back, with Veron, Ahmeed Yusoof & Matt Spurling heading to the line – the latter from an and-one – and while Worthing added four points to their tally, Ipswich added eleven of their own. At the end of the third, the 70-49 deficit suddenly felt a little less daunting.
Ipswich carried this into the fourth, where Worthing scored the opening basket, but failed to connect again until the final forty seconds, as Ipswich’s defence stifled their hosts, and resulted in better scoring opportunities at the other end. By this time, Ipswich had cut the Worthing lead to 65-74. Veron added to the tally, slashing to the basket to gather an assist from Winter, who then stole and laid home from the ensuing inbound, but it was too little, too late, and while Thunder milked the clock they snatched one more basket to put the game beyond doubt.
Lewis Tebbit (26), Ethan Price (10) and Veron/Ben Winter (9) led the Suffolk side in scoring.
“It’d be easy to muse on missed layups to start the game, or the nine missed layups throughout it, but in truth, we were second best to a very good Worthing side through the first 27 minutes today” said Coach MacDonald.
“In the first half, they had a 12 point advantage, and had scored 12 points off putbacks; we came out in the second aiming to do the same things, but just rebound better, and they’d made better adjustments than we had, and were more focused. They moved the ball around our defence, and made shots – and you’ve got to credit them for that.
“That being said, I’ve come away today not feeling like we lost the game, I just feel like we ran out of time. Our defence was superb in those last 13 minutes, we communicated, we boxed out, we worked extraordinarily hard, and we got within two scores – it just happened to be our defence was so good, we still had four fouls to give, down five, with thirty seconds to go!
“We’ve got to take heart from this performance though, we had great contributions from our whole team, and we played some really good ball – this just demonstrates what we’ve been saying all season: when we’re just focused on the next play, playing hard, and playing together, we’ve got a chance – on this occasion, we just left ourselves a bit too much to do in too little time, but none of that takes away from how proud I am of this group of lads.”
Next up for Ipswich is the visit of Newham Youngbloods Lions, on Saturday 11th February at 1pm.