Ipswich’s growing Force built on opportunity, leadership
AFTER watching his gritty Ipswich Force under-16 team battle until the end at the state titles, Terry Lindeberg had a double reason to enjoy a relaxing trip to Toowoomba.
The Force women also rallied against the North Gold Coast Seahawks to win 77-66 and sneak into the Queensland State League top six.
With three matches left in the inaugural competition, the Force women can control their own destiny in a bid to make the playoffs.
They are hoping to join the Force men in the finals after their latest 113-70 win over the Seahawks.
The Force men are chasing a top two spot and home final after another impressive defensive and offensive display.
For Lindeberg, beating the Seahawks was vital as they too build some handy momentum.
Without co-captain Amy Lewis, Force's ever-reliable Rachel Mate ignited the first quarter fightback before co-captain Georgia Ralph and teenage talent Catherine Macgregor maintained the charge.
Ralph made a timely return playing the whole 40 minutes after resting an elbow injury.
"Her leadership was very good,'' Lindeberg said.
"Rachel had an absolute brilliant first quarter.''
Macgregor topscored with 27 points and also made nine rebounds as she proved she belonged in state league competition.
Although Lindeberg said Macgregor still needs to learn when to hold back some of her shots, the 18-year-old is progressing extremely well this season.
Mate and Ralph showed their experience to ensure Force kept in front.
"It puts us in the six now so it's in our hands the last three games,'' Lindeberg said.
A key stat last night was Seahawks made 81 shots to Ipswich's 57 yet still lost.
The Force women's win came after Lindeberg coached the Ipswich under-16 girls to a bronze medal success at last weekend's Division 2 state championships.
His team was down to seven players for the semi-finals and finals yet held on in the last quarter of the final match as Bundaberg mounted a desperate bid to close the gap.
Lindeberg's instructions were to use the time clock and set up shots properly rather than rushing when tired. This was to allow energy to recover in defence.
The strategy worked in the last quarter as Ipswich dug deep to win 88-77.
The Force women needed no such advice as they rolled to victory, preparing for Saturday's next clash with Northside Wizards at JBS arena.
Valuable team role
A feature of the Ipswich men's latest win was how Bullets recruit Nathan Sobey only scored six points as he performed a valuable team role.
"He just took a step back and he basically just facilitated for the night,'' head coach Chris Riches said.
"He still played 35 minutes but he essentially just worked every single guy that was on the court as we rotated around, into the game.
"It was really impressive to see a guy doing that.''
Stand-in captain Ryan Jeffries topscored with 22 points, also guiding Ipswich's youth brigade.
"He really stepped up and really pushed himself to basically come out with probably one of his better performances over the course of the season so far,'' Riches said.
However, most pleasing for Riches was Sobey's assistance in helping the homegrown Ipswich players gain more valuable experience.
Mitch Poulain scored 16 points and made 12 rebounds, supporting Jesse Ghee with 17 points.
"It's one of those things that we are always looking for guys to get into the right type of form,'' Riches said. "And we're starting to get that at the moment.''
The coach said the team is finding the rhythm it needs.
"All the younger guys got a good run as well,'' he said.
"There was one point in time where three of our under-21's team were on the court with Nathan, which is something that we haven't been able to do this season.
"Nathan was there telling them exactly what to do, what he wanted to see and giving feedback.''
The main beneficiaries included Michael Fleming, Cooper Ward and Ethan Robinson who received his first chance to play quality minutes.
"That was the good thing about last night. Everyone got an opportunity to play, everyone got an opportunity to score,'' he said.
The 43-point win came on the back of terrific defence, holding the home side to 10 points in the second quarter.
Ipswich won all four quarters, lifting their season record to six wins and two losses with three games to play.
"If we can close out of the season with wins we'll probably finish somewhere in the top two and it's situation where we have a good opportunity here to probably secure a home final,'' Riches said.
Look out for the Ipswich Force under-12 and under-14 state titles matches being livestreamed on the QT website in coming days.
STATE OF PLAY
QSL Division 1 men: Ipswich Force 113 (Ryan Jeffries 22, Jesse Ghee 17, Mitch Poulain 16) def North Gold Coast 70.
QSL Division 1 women: Ipswich Force 77 (Catherine Macgregor 27, Rachel Mate 22, Georgia Ralph 14) def North Gold Coast 65.