Ipswich Basketball 67-58 Essex Blades
NBL National Cup Final
UEL Sportsdock, London
Ipswich Basketball’s ladies made history with perhaps the biggest win in the club’s history, as Coach Nick Drane’s side lifted the National Cup in an upset win over Essex Blades at UEL Sportsdock on Sunday afternoon.
Clutch shooting and finishing from Ipswich proved decisive in a comeback victory which will be remembered at the club’s Copleston Sports Centre base for a long time to come.
“I can’t put into words what has happened today… this is the best team I have ever coached” – Head Coach Nick Drane
Having trailed Division I leaders Essex by as many as 17 points early in the second quarter, Ipswich demonstrated poise, resilience and not a little togetherness as they fought over twenty minutes to eliminate that deficit, finally taking their first lead of the final midway through the final quarter.
Division II leaders Ipswich have beaten three other Division I sides on their way to the National Cup Final, and showed no signs of being intimidated by Essex’s hot start.
The contest was never likely to be a quiet affair, with over 180 Ipswich supporters in attendance and a reasonable showing from Essex too, and the Suffolk crowd, comprised of friends, families, and representatives of every Ipswich team from the Senior Men to the Under-12 Girls, made a cacophonous noise throughout.
The Blades controlled the early exchanges, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter behind outside shooting from former Ipswich pair Ellie Shaxon and Charleene Tom. Ipswich were loose with the ball against high-pressure defense.
The second quarter began in similar fashion, with Essex’s superior size telling in a physical encounter, but Dannielle Cazey, Harriet Welham and Esther Little all connected from long range as the Suffolk side chipped away at the deficit.
Into the second half, Maya Price and Little combined for seven quick points as an early third-quarter run forced Essex into their first timeout of the game.
The Blades stemmed the tide but never looked like regaining their early lead, and going into the final period they held a slender two-point advantage.
Ipswich finally took a first lead of the game with five minutes remaining, after a Little breakaway layup followed threes by Welham, Cazey and Ashleigh Pink.
A Little three-point play and a Welham free throw then gave Ipswich a vital two possession lead, as Essex sank deeper into foul trouble.
By now the Blades appeared to have run out of steam, unable to connect with their previously successful long-range shooting, and Ipswich’s defense went up through the gears once more as they repeatedly closed out possessions, dominated the rebounds, and used the ball wisely in transition.
Price produced two absolutely vital blocks as Ipswich closed out the game in the most clinical fashion, padding the lead to nine points even without Essex opting to foul and stop the clock in the final minute.
The final buzzer signalled more raucous celebrations both among the team and throughout the stand of Ipswich supporters, as captain Amy Linton raised the National Cup trophy.
“I can’t put into words what has happened today,” said Coach Drane. “Our travelling supporters, the many more people back at home watching the live stream and all the unbelievable work done by our many volunteers, makes me so very proud of our club.
“Bust most of all, these girls, and I do not say this lightly, are the best team I have ever coached.”
Welham was named a thoroughly deserving Most Valuable Player of the Final. The 21-year-old scorer came up with key baskets every time her teamed required them, and played outstanding defense on former teammate Shaxon in the fourth quarter despite a significant height disadvantage. She finished with a game-high 19 points, to go with seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Price finished with 15 points, of which six came in the final two minutes as she hit clutch layups to extend Ipswich’s advantage. The 6’2 Price also finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocks, two of which came within the crucial last two minutes of the game.
Little, Pink and Cazey finished with 11 points apiece, and each hit vital shots in the fourth-quarter run which saw Ipswich finally take the lead.
Ipswich now turn their attention to an undefeated campaign in Division II as they continue their charge towards promotion – and rematches with Blades next season.
For more reaction from Coach Drane and his players, keep your eyes on IpswichBasketball.net later this week.