50 point onslaught has Ipswich firing towards finals
A FIRING Brisbane Bullet leading a young side growing in confidence has Ipswich Force primed for the Queensland State League (QSL) playoffs.
One or two wins from next weekend's double-header will secure the Force men a likely home court final in this year's inaugural basketball series.
With team-minded Bullets recruit Nathan Sobey hitting peak form, Force head coach Chris Riches was excited about what awaits his rapidly developing line-up.
Ipswich's only double-header of the season is against unbeaten RedCity Roar on Saturday night before a Sunday afternoon clash with Gold Coast.
The finals start a week later.
"We've definitely made the playoffs,'' Riches said, looking at the options after Ipswich's latest 118-85 victory over Northside Wizards at JBS Arena.
"If we win both games next week, we'll move into second place on the table and if we split the games next week, we'll be in third.
"If we lose both games next week, we come in fifth.''
With a top six spot secured, Riches was eager to chase a home court advantage by finishing higher up the ladder for the crossover games.
"There's still a lot for us to play for and it's going to be a big ask because RedCity Roar are probably the in-form team of the competition.''
That's why Sobey's impeccable form is just what Ipswich needs as he steps up his National Basketball League (NBL) preparations.
With the start of next year's NBL put back, Sobey and other Bullets players have been able to commit to weekly QSL teams like Force.
Sobey produced another magical performance against the Wizards, nailing 50 points including 11 three-pointers.
"Last night he was just unbelievable,'' Riches said.
"He's always very, very focused on what he wants to achieve in the games.
"As a precursor for the game against RedCity Roar, he was really focused on getting up some shots, getting back into form and it also helped him as well because the Brisbane Bullets had a week off last week . . . so he probably felt pretty good.''
A week after holding back to give his Ipswich teammates more scoring opportunities, Sobey showed what he can do when on target.
"He's really enjoying it and we're super happy to have him involved in the program,'' Riches said.
"He's a class player and a class person so from that point of view, it's been really great for us.
"And I think it's worked out well for him that he's been able to keep in form and work his way back into fitness while waiting for the NBL season to come on board.''
While Sobey continues to command the court sharpening up his shooting, Riches said his younger players were benefiting from his leadership experience.
"It's really a mark of the type of person he is,'' Riches said.
"Against a tam like North Gold Coast, which are bottom of the table, he took that backward step because he saw it as a great opportunity for a lot of our junior players and just our team in general for everyone to get involved.
"He still created a lot and was still in a lot of the stuff we were doing but took that step back and basically helped us build our confidence, build our momentum for a lot of our guys.''
The Ipswich Force women are also looking to lock up a higher finals spot after beating Northside Wizards 106-74.
Co-captain Amy Lewis was in super form with a triple double - topscoring with 25 points, making 15 assists and 10 rebounds.
With co-captain Georgia Ralph away, Iris Cubit compiled her highest tally this season with 20 points.
"Everyone got a run, everyone scored points,'' head coach Terry Lindeberg said.
"Offensively we are shooting the ball well.''
Ipswich Force can finish as high as fourth with wins over RedCity and Gold Coast next weekend.
STATE OF PLAY
QSL Division 1 men: Ipswich Force 118 (Nathan Sobey 50, Jesse Ghee 10) def Northside Wizards 85.
QSL Division 2 women: Ipswich Force 106 (Amy Lewis 25, Iris Cubit 20) def Northside Wizards 74.