Ipswich teams become a united Force on road to success
BASKETBALL: A five-six hour bus trip to Gladstone can enhance a team's bond at an important stage of the season.
When two of Ipswich's most competitive teams are on the same hired coach heading north, the trip can also strengthen ties in an association's senior program.
And although the Ipswich Force men's and women's teams already have strong connections, this weekend's state league games provide more valuable opportunities.
The third-placed Force women are keen to rebound quickly after their second loss of the season to South West Metro last Sunday.
The 81-55 defeat came after a gritty 79-74 victory over Sunshine Coast Phoenix the previous night.
Fatigue and South West's defensive pressure combined to keep Ipswich's normally dangerous offence in check.
However, with seven Queensland Basketball League matches remaining, the Force women have plenty to play for this weekend.
The withdrawal of Bundaberg from this year's competition has reduced the regular two-match round to one game.
"Road trips are good for bonding but this one is a little bit different from normal - only going up there for one,'' Ipswich Force head coach Brad George said.
Being able to concentrate on beating Gladstone is timely after splitting last weekend's testing doubleheader in Ipswich.
"It's definitely a good one to bounce back in,'' George said, knowing Gold Coast awaits the following weekend.
"It's games against two of the lower ones that we really need to get wins against.''
Gladstone are anchored near the bottom of the league with just one win. Gold Coast are also struggling this season.
The Force squad heading north on Saturday morning will be without Logan junior Loie Webb, who has returned to England after being a handy bench player.
As the Ipswich women chase their 10th win, the Force men have a terrific chance to secure their fourth. The Gladstone men's team is just one spot above Ipswich on the ladder.
After watching his team split last weekend's series against Sunshine Coast Phoenix and South West Metro, head coach Chris Riches remained confident his team was tracking well.
"We obviously got a little bit of buoyancy with the boys in regards to the big win (120-83 over Phoenix) on Saturday night,'' Riches said.
"Then on Sunday, we felt like we could have been right there (before going down 88-74).
"In one game, we demonstrated what we can do and then it's just those little inconsistencies.''
Even under immense pressure in last Sunday's second match, Force vice-captain Kyle Harvey put on 34 points, after 32 the previous night.
Such inspired efforts against established, quality opponents augur well for the Force team.
"Everyone in the team and all the coaching staff can see we are making inroads into what we do,'' Riches said.
"It shows that the investment in the youth, and the faith in those people that have been in our program for a long time, is working.
"We go into every game believing that we can win and it's not beyond us.''
While he welcomed another bonding session on the bus this weekend, Riches praised his players for their team spirit.
Having a number of Ipswich juniors in the senior side captained by Ipswich product Jason Ralph has contributed to that.
"They know each other quite well,'' Riches said.
"The last State of Origin, when it was on a Sunday, we had a game and then all the boys went back to Jason's place and hung out afterwards. They genuinely like hanging out with each other.''
Riches said spending time together on the team bus was beneficial for another reason.
"For us, we'll do player reviews and a team meeting while we travel,'' the Ipswich coach said.
QBL Saturday: Ipswich Force v Gladstone in Gladstone (women's match at 6pm with men's game at 8pm).