Nottingham Hoods 73-74 Ipswich Basketball
National League Division II
Jesse Boot Arena, Nottingham
Four crunch-time free-throws from Tom Sadler and a huge defensive possession by Edson Ferreira gave Ipswich a last-second victory on the road against Nottingham Hoods.
The game came down to the final six seconds and a Nottingham inbounds play, but Ferreira interrupted a drive by Hoods forward Casimero and came up with the loose ball. He tipped it to Caleb Fuller, who sent it up into the rafters to allow time to expire.
The fourth quarter had been a duel between two of the most respected English-produced forwards of the last fifteen years, as veterans and former internationals Tom Sadler and David “Tintin” Watts traded baskets and took over the game between them.
Behind Watts’ hot shooting, the Hoods, who had trailed for much of the game, broke out to a seven-point lead with around two minutes to play. However, gutsy defence and some well-executed offensive possessions, including a crucial drive by Ferreira and Fuller’s ‘circus shot’ three-point play, dragged Ipswich back within three.
With 75 seconds to play, Sadler drew a foul on Davis and got to the free-throw line, hitting both free throws to pull Ipswich within one. Watts missed a heavily-contested three at the other end, before Sadler again got to the line, sinking his third and fourth free throws of the game, and taking Ipswich into the lead.
Both teams committed turnovers and Ipswich then used up a shot-clock to leave Nottingham needing a basket inside the final six seconds.
“’Tintin’ is an absolute matchup nightmare,” said Head Coach Nick Drane, “for us and probably any team at this level. He’s essentially a 6’8” guard who can shoot the hell out of it. Our game plan was to make life difficult for him, but more specifically, keep the Hoods’ recent leading scorer Delaney Powell below his average.
“Caleb Fuller, who we have to remember is still only seventeen, is becoming our ‘stopper’ and I thought he was outstanding on the defensive end today.”
In the first quarter Ipswich played some outstanding basketball, scoring 29 points to Nottingham’s 19 and establishing an early grip on the game’s momentum. Effective adjustments by Nottingham’s coaching staff reduced the game to an extremely wayward affair in the second quarter, which the hosts won 16-9 after a relative flurry of scoring in the final minute.
Having held a half-time lead and somewhat solidified it in the early stages of the third quarter, Ipswich again struggled for offensive rhythm as they rotated around the quarter-break and allowed Watts to capitalise.
But the clutch performances by Sadler, Ferreira and Fuller ensured that Ipswich were going home with the win they had come for. Sadler finished with 15 points, and Fuller added 13, six rebounds and four assists.
“We showed some real steel today, and that’s reflective of the resilience we’ve started to display over the last month,” Drane enthused.
“Rory Winter played his role outstandingly, Colin Dockrell played his role outstandingly… we are down to eight players but everyone understands their job and we are really clicking.
“The team and the coaching staff were extremely well prepared for this game,” continued Drane, “and I need to tip my hat to assistant coaches John Ellis and Rob Schatten for their hard work during the week. Nottingham had a very different squad today to when we beat them in Ipswich earlier in the season, but our scouting meant we were ready for the new personnel and were able to adapt.”
The win keeps Ipswich on pace with London Westside for the fourth seed in the Playoffs, and a home draw in the first round. In their final five games of the regular season, Ipswich have winnable fixtures against lower-placed sides Tees Valley Mohawks, Doncaster Eagles and Newham Neptunes, and two potentially season-deciding encounters with London Pioneers and Kent Crusaders.
“It’s the business end of the season now,” Drane concluded. “We need to build on today.”