Women triumph in table-top clash

Ashleigh Pink controlled the pace of the game early on, helping Ipswich to build a comfortable lead

Ipswich Basketball Club’s Senior Women recorded a huge win on the road to previously undefeated Derbyshire Gems on Sunday to put themselves in a strong position at the top of WNBL Division Two heading into Christmas. Ipswich put together a dominant performance that saw them ahead by twenty-three points going into the fourth quarter – before Derby mounted a mini-comeback in the final two minutes to bring the score within twelve.

Although Ipswich had made a perfect start to the season, going undefeated in the league as well as taking down teams from the division above to reach the National Cup semi-final, Derbyshire had done the same, making the significance of this game huge, with both teams making relatively short work of the teams in Division Two. The early form book suggested that Derbyshire and Ipswich were the two teams to beat, vying for promotion to Division One.

Ipswich led from the start, with Ashleigh Pink dictating the game’s tempo, and Maya Price controlling the paint (finishing the game with six blocked shots). Ipswich used a balanced attack to slowly build a double-digit lead going into half time, while Derby had no answer for Ipswich’s stifiling defence, which held their hosts to just twenty-four points through two quarters.

The third quarter saw Ipswich further extend their lead, with leading scorer Harriet Welham getting it going, as the Suffolk side extended the lead to over twenty.

However, Derbyshire are a veteran team with a lot of experience, not least in the form of Great Britain senior international Jo Claydon.

The fourth quarter was an eventful one. Both teams were called for unsportsmanlike fouls, Ashleigh Pink went to the bench after a hard foul and most notably, Derby star Claydon seemingly decided to take matters into her own hands. Having been kept quiet for three quarters by Ipswich’s outstanding team defence, Claydon connected on four consecutive three pointers in the final two minutes to single handedly change the scoring spread from what looked like a relatively one-sided game to a more competitive contest.

Ipswich eventually won 75-63.

“I thought we did a good job today,” said Coach Drane. “To come here and get a win is hard. I’ve been here several times over the years and it’s a tough place to play. Their crowd really get behind them, and do their best to make the visiting team uncomfortable and their court certainly favours a team that are used to the surroundings so it’s a great win.

“We weren’t at our best today, we didn’t shoot well and I thought we were sloppy in the fourth, and I include myself in that. But it’s a massive win and these girls are just so great to work with.

“Derbyshire are just as good as the Division One teams we have faced in the cup, and Jo Claydon is the best player we have faced so far the season – if she takes the game over earlier, like she did in the final two minutes, then they can beat anyone.”

Ipswich have finished their league games for 2017, as they head into the break 4-0 in the league, with five straight home games to start 2018. However, they have the small matter of the National Cup semi-final next Sunday as they travel to Bristol Storm, another Division One team, with a chance to make a national final in their first season together.

Ipswich were led by 21 points from Harriet Welham and 20 from Ashleigh Pink. Elsewhere Esther Little collected eight points, eleven rebounds and four blocks.