'Unreal boost': How defying setbacks lifts grand final hopes
FEELING fresh after a beneficial trip to France, Amy Lewis knows Ipswich can defy its season of setbacks and reach the state league grand final.
To achieve that, the Ipswich Force women have to beat Queensland Basketball League pacesetters Southern Districts Spartans at Carina on Saturday night.
Experienced Force newcomer Lewis said her team was thriving on the challenge having conquered their last quarter demons in upstaging the second placed Rockhampton Cyclones 79-74 last weekend.
"It was unreal. Such a good feeling,'' she said of Ipswich's quarter-final victory.
"Especially because we'd been in that situation (ahead) and we'd lost . . . so as a team, to find a win to way to win and get over the line in the end, we were all just ecstatic.''
Beating Rockhampton on their home court also gave the seventh-placed Force women a massive lift being undermanned from recent injury, illness and losing bench players to other commitments.
"We definitely have had the highs and the lows,'' Lewis said. "Games that we should have won and then games that we've played out of our skin and won the really tough ones.
"Losing Loz (Lauren O'Sullivan) early on and then (import) Kaili (McLaren) has really hurt us but we just found a way to win.
"It's been extremely tough with all the adversity but the fact that we could pull off such a great win in Rocky, I think it's really given us a lot of confidence going into this weekend.
"It was an awesome team effort.''
Like her Force teammates, Lewis is excited about the chance to play in her first QBL grand final.
The closest the well-travelled former national league basketballer came was in 2016 when the Brisbane Capitals won the first week of playoffs before bowing out in the semi-finals.
"We're definitely looking to go that one step further,'' she said.
Lewis was severely missed by Ipswich when she spent a month mid-season in France attending a wedding with her partner Anthony Sarramea.
While admitting it was a "bittersweet'' choice at the time, Lewis said the break has helped her mentally and physically coming into the business end of the season.
"It was really good,'' she said.
"It was nice to get away and recharge the batteries. I feel like I haven't left now.''
Lewis played national league for Townsville (2008-10), Adelaide (2010-14) and the South East Queensland Stars (2015) before venturing to Ipswich after a state league stint with the Capitals.
Although playing four matches less than her teammates this season, point guard Lewis has remained Ipswich's third highest scorer with 216 points. Amanda "AJ'' Johnson (421) and the dependable Georgia Ralph (245) have led the way since Force lost McLaren to a knee injury.
"Georgia's been phenomenal the last few weeks with her shooting form,'' Lewis said.
"And AJ is a machine. She's always going to rack up the numbers.
"If we can all be on top of our game, it's a chance to achieve something.''
Lewis said although Force lost their recent clash 86-84 to the Spartans, they built a sizeable lead before letting the experienced home side claw ahead late.
"You can take a lot of positives out of the game against Spartans,'' Lewis said.
"Two weeks ago, we had a great first half. We know we can match it with them.''
QBL women semi-final 1: Saturday (7pm) - Ipswich Force v Southern Districts Spartans at Rowland Cowan Stadium, Carina.
Semi-final 2: Saturday (7pm) - Townsville v Gold Coast at Townsville Stadium.