Kent Crusaders 89-82 Ipswich Basketball
National League Division II – Playoff Semi-finals
Barking Abbey School
Ipswich Basketball came within a whisker of the Division II Playoff Final but were outlasted by regular-season champions Kent Crusaders in an epic encounter on Saturday.
The hosts’ lightning-fast start to the game proved enough to carry them to the Manchester showcase, despite Ipswich turning in a supremely determined performance and never fading away.
Kent led 12-2 inside two minutes as Ipswich made a lacklustre start to the game, and stretched that advantage to 22-7 and then out to as many as 18 points in the second quarter, before Ipswich rallied somewhat to reduce the deficit to 52-40 at the break.
Having given up endless baskets in the key in the first half, Ipswich redoubled their defensive effort and brought the gap down to single digits early in the third quarter, before Tim Shodipo keyed a big run for Kent to push the lead right back to 18 points.
Caleb Fuller, who finished with a game-high 22 points, and Leigh Greenan combined for 28 of Ipswich’s 42 second-half points and it was Fuller who took the mantle of driving up Ipswich’s tempo, with a couple of crucial steals and fast-break scores helping to reduce the deficit.
The pair had each been limited in the first half, when early scoring from Luke Mascall-Wright and captain Colin Dockrell was vital in keeping Ipswich in the game.
Mascall-Wright would finish with 19, saving some of his best work for the final exchanges.
In the final minute – having fallen 18 behind for the third time – Ipswich came right back to within two points when Mascall-Wright drained two huge three-pointers, over tough defence, on consecutive possessions.
But that would be as close as the Suffolk side could get. Kent’s guards remained cool under pressure to make their free-throws as time ran out on Nick Drane’s men.
Amin Adamu led the way for Kent in the scoring charts with 22, tying Fuller; John Shodipo added 20 and RJ Eytle-Rock finished with 16.
Ipswich were without regular captain Tom Sadler, who was held out by injuries which have sidelined him since early March.
“We may have lost today, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way we dug in and battled,” said the departing Drane.
“It’s easy to quit when you get jumped on like that at the start. It took the league champions, playing very close to their best basketball, to beat us – and even then, we outscored them over the final 38 minutes.
“This year has been a rollercoaster and that game, with the awful start, the outstanding comeback and the oh-so-close finish, was our season in microcosm.”