Captain courageous praised for 'every minute' road trip feat
AFTER a two hour flight one day and four hour bus trip the next, the Ipswich Force players could be forgiven for feeling tired and sore this morning.
The Queensland Basketball League road trip to Townsville and Cairns can be draining with the long days and all the travel.
However, Force head coaches Brad George and Chris Riches found plenty of positives and valuable lessons from a mixed weekend.
The Force women split the series by beating Cairns 95-77 on Saturday night after losing 88-77 to Townsville a night earlier.
The Force men lost 102-83 to Cairns after going down 111-100 to Townsville in a double overtime encounter 24 hours earlier.
George was particularly pleased to have Force newcomers Kaili McLaren, Mikaela King and Amy Lewis become more acquainted with his core group of closeknit players.
"That's the benefit of having this road trip in the first part of the season. It's the bonding,'' George said.
Although his team arrived fit and healthy before arranging a pool session and plenty of sleep, Riches said heading north was always challenging.
"Physically we were in a good spot. It was just the mental fatigue that happens when you're on road trips,'' Riches said.
Riches praised "captain courageous'' Jason Ralph for his never-say-die attitude in Friday night's double overtime endurance test. The extended play was needed after Ipswich and Townsville were deadlocked at 85-all after four quarters.
Ralph spent 43 and a half minutes on court in that match, before backing up "for every minute'' the next night despite Riches inviting him to take a break.
"It was a really special effort that he put in over the course of this weekend, especially in a game where we were down by 20 plus,'' Riches said.
"He wanted to stay on the court and lead the guys back into the right frame of mind.''
Riches was also encouraged to see Josh Spiers find his offensive rhythm and acknowledged the ongoing commitment of vice-captain Kyle Harvey.
Last week's QBL player of the round Harvey battled through a migraine headache on Friday night to still top score with 27 points.
Meanwhile, George praised Rachel Mate for another solid performance. He was also happy the team was working more with newcomer McLaren.
"Probably the best thing for us offensive wise going forward is we play better with Kaili,'' he said. "We got Kaili way more involved and learning how to play better with her.''
Last week's QBL player of the round Amanda "AJ'' Johnson top scored in both games. She continued her valuable role with Ipswich after a stint with Sydney Uni Flames in the Women's National Basketball League.
However, AJ's scoring opportunities were restricted against Townsville after she got into early foul trouble.
The Force teams have a chance to reassess with a bye this weekend.
Being in his ninth season as a state league coach, George said his team had plenty to work on preparing for their next doubleheader series on June 1 and 2 against South West Metro and Toowoomba respectively at Ipswich stadium.
"The problem is we're not being consistent enough,'' he said, reflecting on his team's three win-two loss record. "We're only playing one half of basketball.
"We could have been 5 and 0 (five wins and 0 losses). We'll just keep building from here.''
The Force women emerged relatively unscathed from the road trip.
However, Riches said his team picked up some bumps and bruises, which will have to be treated as the Force men work to add to their sole victory so far.
"Basically the opposition teams played well and we just didn't get it done,'' Riches said.
"For us, it was a learning exercise more than anything else and we just need to learn some of those hard lessons now so we don't have to do it later on.
"Rebounding is a big issue for us. We just have got to do better. That was a key thing over the course of the weekend and also turnovers.
"We just made far too many turnovers, unforced errors throughout the game.''
State of play
QBL men: Cairns 102 def Ipswich Force 83 (Kyle Harvey 26, Josh Spiers 24); Townsville 111 def Ipswich Force 100 (Kyle Harvey 27, Josh Spiers 19) in double overtime.
QBL women: Ipswich Force 95 (Amanda Johnson 24, Rachel Mate 20) def Cairns 77; Townsville 88 def Ipswich Force 77 (Amanda Johnson 17, Kaili McLaren 17).