High-flying Ipswich women face biggest state league test
BASKETBALL: All season, the Ipswich Force women have displayed their close bond and tremendous character on the court.
Now, they face their biggest test after securing second spot for the Queensland Basketball League quarter-finals starting next weekend.
Friday night's 82-71 victory over the Gold Coast Rollers completed Ipswich's wonderful regular season featuring 16 wins and only two losses.
Although finishing on the same points as leaders Townsville, Ipswich head into the finals in second on percentages.
That is the highest Ipswich has placed in the hotly contested state league.
On Saturday night, Ipswich will host a historic first quarter-final under the top eight format.
However, after recovering from an early deficit against the Gold Coast to get the job done, Force tackle an even tougher challenge in the quarter-final.
The Ipswich team will be without two key back-up guards in Kate Head and Catherine Macgregor.
Head, 18, is heading overseas to start a student athlete scholarship with Kennesaw State University.
Macgregor, a student at West Moreton Anglican College, has Queensland Schoolgirls commitments after playing in Friday night's game at the Gold Coast.
"It's going to be a big character test for the girls,'' head coach Brad George said, waiting to see who Ipswich's opponent will be in the final.
He will be relying on his dependable starting five - captain Bree Farley, Amanda Johnson, Rachel Mate, Georgia Williams and Gintare Mazionyte - plus Ipswich product Meg Essex to carry extra workload this weekend.
"We'll have to stay out of foul trouble,'' he said.
"Hopefully we can have enough bodies on the court to keep going on.''
However, after his players accepted extra minutes against a determined Gold Coast outfit, he knows Force have the quality to go a step further in their successful season.
"I'm definitely pleased with how the girls have gone this year,'' the experienced state league coach said. "Surprised to some extent. I wasn't expecting to be up this high.
"They keep turning up for each other. Any game that's been close this year, they've won it.''
Ipswich did that on Friday night.
"They (Gold Coast) played really aggressive with a nothing to lose mentality and shot really well,'' George said. "They played with a little bit more intensity (than in their previous 90-48 loss to Ipswich).''
But after the early shock of trailing 24-11, the Force team responded in style, led by American import Amanda Johnson with 30 points and the ever-reliable Rachel Mate with 19.
The Force team celebrated with a BBQ at the George household before focusing on the important week ahead.
QBL women: Ipswich Force 82 (Amanda Johnson 30, Rachel Mate 19) def Gold Coast Rollers 71 at Gold Coast.