Women complete sweep of regular season

Nick Drane's squad capped off a flawless regular season with another win (Image: Pavel Kricka)

Ipswich Basketball 78-73 Derbyshire Gems

Ipswich Basketball Club’s all conquering Senior Women added another piece of history to their unforgettable season on Saturday as they took down second-placed Derbyshire Gems 78-73 at Copleston to complete a remarkable 15-0 regular season, to go with their National Cup title from January.

For the first time this season at home, the Suffolk side were made to work for a win. Derbyshire, who boast the services of former GB Senior International, Joanne Claydon, came in with nothing to lose, already assured of second place in the league and a home draw in the playoffs. Ipswich, on the other hand, were protecting a phenomenal record of nineteen wins from nineteen games – and were playing without one of their own GB Internationals, Esther Little, who was rested due to a minor knock.

Although the scoreline suggests this game went down to the wire, in reality, it wasn’t until the final minute of the game that the Gems pulled within touching distance of the league champions. Ipswich held an eight point lead after the first period (26-18), with Ashleigh Pink and Harriet Welham dominating the scoring, and they extended that lead to nine by half time at 45-36. Maya Price was in fine form, blocking seven shots in the first half, while, as expected, Claydon did much of the damage for the visitors.

In the third quarter Ipswich extended their lead to sixteen and it looked like it was turning into another comprehensive victory for the Suffolk side, before the Gems clawed things back to ten going into the fourth (61-51).

Ipswich again pushed on; Amy Linton, Pink and Danni Cazey all connected from long range to extend the lead back to sixteen with three minutes to play but again Derbyshire would not throw into the towel – bringing it back to ten with a minute to play. In the final thirty seconds Derby capitalised on an Ipswich miss and made a three to bring it within seven and then off an Ipswich turnover the lead was trimmed to five with twenty seconds to play. Ipswich would hold onto the ball and run out the clock to close out their tightest league win of the season 78-73.

“We weren’t at our best today, but we weren’t at full strength either,” said Head Coach Nick Drane. “I thought we did a good job of digging in and grinding out a tough victory against a team I would imagine will have a very good run in the playoffs.

“Actually playing in a game like that going into the post season will do us good – it’s important to remember that people are coming for us, and that was reflected in the reaction of the Derby players at the end of the game.

“The Derbyshire players celebrated at the buzzer like they had won the game – this is a true testament to how this Ipswich team is viewed around the country.”

Pink top-scored for the hosts with 29 points, while Welham added 21 and Price and Cazey finished with 11 each.

Ipswich now turn their attention to the National Playoffs and their target of a historic treble. To complete that, they will need to win three more games and take their season record to 23-0. Ipswich will host Cardiff Met Archers in the first round, at Copleston, on the weekend of the 7th/8th April.