Force stuns in crash-landing
THE Ipswich Force gave up an eight-point lead in the final 60 seconds to crash to a demoralising defeat at the hands of QBL powerhouse Townsville at Ipswich Basketball Stadium yesterday.
Consecutive three-point plays by Townsville QBL and NBL player Todd Blanchfield brought the Heat within two points before the game's top scorer nailed a three-pointer with only seconds remaining to give his team the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter.
Ipswich fans were left stunned by the home team's capitulation after they had led by as much as 20 points during the first half.
The final 80-76 scoreline will be hard to swallow for coach Shane Heal who must have felt the game was within his keeping on multiple occasions before lapses in concentration allowed the visitors to stay in touch.
The four-time Olympian was seething after the match at his team's inept second half performance.
"That was terrible," Heal said.
"Our decision making was terrible. Our organisation and leadership was terrible.
"It was all really, really disappointing."
After starting slowly and conceding an early eight-point lead, the Force showed their best form for the season in the second quarter to take a handy 18-point lead into halftime.
Sweet long-range shooting from guards Shaun Gleeson and Zarryon Fereti and a stellar second quarter defensive effort had the Ipswich crowd on their feet.
That all changed at halftime. Townville came out breathing fire and the home side had no answer.
It was nearly six minutes into the second half before the Force finally found a basket but it wasn't until the Heat had piled on 15-unanswered points to all but erase the good first half work.
The match became a battle of wills from then on until Blanchfield showed his big game experience with three huge plays within a minute.
A frustrated Heal said he could find "no positives at all" from the game but did concede bad losses were a good teaching tool.
"This loss will be a really good thing for our team because I think some guys were getting ahead of themselves," Heal said. "A few of the guys don't seem to understand the process we have to go through to be successful. Perhaps they think it is just going to happen. We have a long way to go."
When asked what went wrong in the last minute, Heal said the problems ran much deeper.
"We didn't lose the game in the last minute, we lost the game in the second half," he said.
"We lost the game because we had 18 turnovers.
"We had 25 transition points in the first half and only eight in the second because we kept turning the ball over."
The Force went into the game undermanned with teenage guard Jason Ralph away on junior representative duty while veteran forward Ryan Stolberg will miss three weeks after injuring a groin at training earlier in the week.
The lack of depth on the bench hurt the home side although back-up forward Robbie Manson played his best game for his new club.
His energy in defence and aggression at both ends of the floor showed he will be a valuable foil during Solberg's absence.
STATE OF PLAY
QBL men: Townsville Heat 80 (Todd Blanchfield 29, Chris Cedar 22, Steven Costanzo 11) def Ipswich Force 76 (Zarryon Fereti 19, Shaun Gleeson 15, Ryan Jefferies 15)
QBL women: Ipswich Force 78 (Emma Langford 20, Nadeen Payne 19, Courtney Taylor 17) def Townsville Heat 71 (Lisa Braunberger 19, Aroon Edgar 12, Rebecca Vaderjagt 12)