Ipswich Force stepping up for finals
WOMEN'S state league coach of the month Brad George can head into the playoffs with plenty of encouragement if the efforts of two focused American imports are any guide.
Philadelphia-based Markel Walker overcame an early ankle injury scare to be named Ipswich's player of the match in Force's hard- fought 92-85 victory on Saturday night.
The win over South West Metro Pirates at Ipswich stadium secured Force sixth spot and a place in the Queensland Basketball League finals.
But after Walker poured on 33 points to lead Ipswich's late charge, it was Indianapolis-based Shenita Landry who offered an ominious warning.
"I'm never satisfied,'' she said, expecting more in the finals, especially in defence.
Landry, 30, stepped up against the Pirates with three valuable steals, supporting Walker who top scored for her team after receiving early treatment.
"Markel did an awesome job on one foot. She was great,'' George said.
"She was a bit sore but she'll be alright. We'll just manage her this week.''
The teams were deadlocked 24-24 after the first quarter before Ipswich trailed 46-42 at halftime.
Force secured a narrow 66-65 three-quarter lead after Walker scored just before the siren.
After returning in the second quarter, Walker was well supported by busy captain Bree Farley, the fleet-footed Rachel Mate and ever-energetic Georgia Williams.
Dependable duo Bianca Abbot and Ashton Eaton also made valuable contributions as South West threatened to grab victory.
This weekend's playoff game will be George's sixth year in a row overseeing an Ipswich team to the finals.
"All the girls have come together now,'' he said, looking to see what his side can achieve to complete another season.
After a tight tussle against "awkward'' opponents South West Metro, George was hoping his team was switched on, most likely against Mackay, in the first stage of the finals.
"If we had a group at the start (of the season) we would probably be a lot higher up,'' he said. "But now we've got the momentum at the right time of the season and we've just got to be aggressive from the word go.''
The Bremer State High School teacher was named coach of the month for July.
He guided Ipswich from eighth with four wins after round nine to a respectable sixth with nine victories heading into the South West Metro clash.
Landry joined Force for the first time this season having previously played overseas for "eight months out of the year.''
"I'm really enjoying it,'' Landry said, having seen a kangaroo in Ipswich on her first trip to Australia.
"Everyone is great. Everyone makes me feel welcome.''
She said playing in the QBL was a good way to broaden her basketball in her off-season. She's played in quality leagues in countries like Finland, Germany and France.
The Ipswich Force men completed their frustrating season on Saturday night with a 102-95 defeat, having lost captain James Legan to a nasty leg injury a few weeks ago.
However, Legan still hobbled into Ipswich stadium on his crutches to support his teammates.