Last-gasp Ipswich loss fires up Force finding solutions
VICTORY that got away, a valuable lesson, cruel loss.
Whatever way you reflect on Ipswich's last-gasp defeat in the NBL1 North opener, one follow-up is assured.
Thorough Force men's coach Chris Riches will be desperately searching for solutions.
"You go away (from a loss) having that bit more of that spitefulness in the belly to try and figure out why that happened and then try to get better from it,'' Riches said.
"From my point of view, I will go away now and spend hours on trying to turn things around.''
Riches had just watched the Gold Coast Rollers clinch a nailbiting 74-73 win in a historic basketball thriller at Carrara.
Up by 10 points in the final quarter of a new national competition, Force allowed Gold Coast to level at 71-71 before captain Jason Ralph crafted a magnificent two-pointer with 17 seconds left.
However, the home side responded with a three-pointer, leaving Ipswich only six seconds to find a miracle winning shot.
Gold Coast held on.
"It's the tale of the tape really,'' Riches said.
"You have to play for the whole 40 minutes. You can't just do it for 38 or 36.
"You've got to go all the way and do it all the time.''
It was only at the death that Gold Coast gained ascendancy.
"We did quite a good job defensively,'' Riches said.
"Any time you keep a team to that low a score in the NBL1 level, it's really, really good.
"It was our offensive execution that probably let us down across the fourth quarter.
"But there were other patches throughout the game that we just have to go away and just refine and improve really at the end of the day.
"You can't be up that match and allow the game to slip through your hands.
"We tried a variety of different things and none of them worked.''
Ralph deserved to be rewarded with victory having controlled the match for long periods.
He finished with 20 points and seven defensive rebounds.
With experienced teammate Ryan Jeffries and new recruit Manylok Malek making his debut, Force looked to have Gold Coast's measure.
Lachlan MacGregor also provided some handy three-pointers at key times.
But after leading 23-16 in the first quarter and ahead 56-48 going into the final period, Force had enough chances to secure an opening victory in the inaugural competition.
Even without a match "closer'' like last year's big moment finisher Nathan Sobey, Riches expected his team to win.
"We should have been able to do better,'' he said.
Relieved to have higher level basketball being played again, the head coach left Carrara hungry for more.
"You work so long at these things,'' Riches said, having devoted months to preparing his latest Ipswich team.
"If there's one thing you can say now, it's that we are heading into every game expecting that we are going to win.
"We are at that point now in our development and the pathway to just want to win every single game.
"And to work and work and work to try and make that happen.''
In their first NBL1 North hitout, the Ipswich Force women displayed plenty of fighting spirit before going down 78-54 to the Gold Coast Rollers.
After trailing 22-8 in the first quarter, the new-look Force combination rallied to outscore the home side 23-11 in the second period.
However, Gold Coast rallied again in the third quarter to hold a 53-52 advantage heading into the final period.
Gold Coast finished the job on their Carrara court.
Force's top scorer was captain Amy Lewis with 21 points. She was also the side's leading rebounder with nine.
Catherine MacGregor contributed 11 points.
Kelsey McDermott and Georgia Ralph made seven rebounds each.
Like the Force men, the Ipswich women have their first home game against Cairns next Saturday.
Those matches are at 5pm and 7pm at JBS Stadium, Booval.