THE chance of an Ipswich Force home grand final has gone from a dream to a real possibility after the Force recorded a crucial against-the-odds win over the weekend.
Ipswich's home court boost became possible after ladder leaders Rockhampton and Mackay both suffered upset losses.
With Ryan Jeffries already sidelined with a calf injury and Shaun Gleeson withdrawing pre-game with a calf strain, the Force went from raging favourites to beat the Capitals, to an even money bet to keep their five-game winning streak alive.
But in what Shane Heal described as the "most satisfying win of the season", the Force found enough in the final minutes to come from behind. It was a memorable 82-71 win.
At the same time the Force were celebrating, joint leaders Mackay and Rockhampton were counting the cost of upset defeats.
Rockhampton fell to the struggling Bundaberg, while Mackay lost both games on a road trip to Cairns and Townsville.
The results mean the Force are within a game of top spot, which would guarantee them a home grand final if they maintained their winning streak in the final series.
The key to the latest Force win was season-best performances from maligned forwards Ben Allen and Robbie Manson.
Both players stepped up just when their team needed them on Saturday night.
Allen's game high 30 points and 12 rebounds highlighted his dominance.
While Manson's statistics aren't as impressive on paper, his pressure at both ends of the court was a key to the win.
Zarryon Fereti was also a standout, taking the backcourt scoring load on his shoulders, finishing with 27 points.
Heal was full of praise.
"I was pumped after the game," Heal said.
"It was a really good effort by the guys, particularly with who we had out. That type of win is character building.
"Robbie had his best game of the year and Benny played like a man tonight.
"Z (Fereti) was great offensively and defensively and really took over Shaun's role."
Force bench players Jason Ralph (36 minutes), Colby Stefanovic (24 minutes), Dan Richards (10 minutes) and Lachlan Swindles (eight minutes) all saw significantly more court time than they are used to as Heal looked towards his role players to step up.
While they all played their role, it was Stefanovic's three-pointer to give the Force the lead with three minutes to play was the most important contribution of all.
From that point on, the Force put together their best finishing stretch of the season with suffocating defence and composed foul shooting completely shutting out the home team.
Heal said the result was a reward for training commitment.
"I always say to the guys, 'you might not play many minutes now but you are only one injury away from playing half a game and determining whether we win or lose'," he said. "The guys got rewarded for that last night."
With one home game and a tough double header road trip still to come before the finals, Heal knows his team must do everything right to ensure they finish as high as possible.
But finishing in top spot could cause an unexpected headache for the Force.
They have a bye in the final round and the top team gets the first week of the finals off, meaning the Force could potentially go into a QBL semi-final off the back of a 20-day break.
Heal said he would deal with that if and when it happened.
STATE OF PLAY
QBL Round 11 results
Men: Ipswich Force 82 (Ben Allen 30, Zarryon Fereti 27) d Brisbane Capitals 71 (Jarrod Bairstow 17, Nicholas Masunda 17).
Women: Ipswich Force 85 (Emma Langford 25, Nadeen Payne 24) d Brisbane Capitals 56 (Emma Randall 24) at Auchenflower.