NBL Division Two Play-off Final
Derbyshire Gems 55
Ipswich Women completed a remarkable perfect season with a crushing victory in the play-off final in Manchester.
In their first season together, Nick Drane’s talented squad achieved the unthinkable – going the whole campaign unbeaten and winning the league, play-offs and National Cup triple.
Having bested a crop of teams from the league above to lift the cup, they saw off the Gems – the squad that pushed them closest in the regular season – in the play-off final, to leave no doubt as to who are queens of the basketball castle.
Regular season national MVP Harriet Welham picked up MVP in the final too, with 33 points, six rebounds and five steals as Ipswich led from start to finish in a dominant display.
She told Hoopsfix.com: “It’s just amazing. We’ve had an unbelievable season as a team all together. We’ve won the cup, the league, we’ve gone undefeated and this is the absolute cherry on the cake for us, it’s just unbelievable.
“This team is special, there’s no other way I can say it. Each one of us has a special relationship, it’s cheesy to say but they are my family and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”
Young Great Britain star Esther Little, a student at Thurston Community College, added 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for Ipswich, while Maya Price grabbed 14 rebounds and 10 blocks to go with her five points.
Little, considered the best under-16 player in the country, said: “Words can’t even describe it. If you’d have said it at the start of the season, people would have said ‘what are you saying?’
“For us to go undefeated it’s literally unheard of, especially from such a small town like Ipswich.”
Drane, who was named Division Two Coach of the Year, was understandably jubilant.
“It’s historic,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s Division One, Division Two or WBBL, you can only beat what’s in front of you, so to win every single game that we played with a group of girls that are all from one little town in Suffolk is something that doesn’t happen very often.”
Ipswich will now prepare to mount a serious challenge in Division One next season. But having beaten the Essex Blades – Division One champions – in the National Cup final, they will already be among the favourites for the title.