Ipswich Force guard Rachel Mate displays her defensive skills in last weekend's QBL quarter-final victory over the Mackay Meteorettes.
Ipswich Force guard Rachel Mate displays her defensive skills in last weekend's QBL quarter-final victory over the Mackay Meteorettes. Cordell Richardson

Why Mate-ship is driving Ipswich's terrific run

DEPENDABLE Ipswich Force guard Rachel Mate jokes that spending time on the floor is something she's getting used to.

She's often heavily involved in the bumps and collisions that occur in physical state league basketball matches.

However, the fearless sportswoman is always quick to her feet and eager to continue helping the Ipswich team move forward.

Mate is one of Ipswich's most reliable players preparing for Saturday night's Queensland Basketball League semi-final.

In her second season with Force, she's delighted with her progress.

"It's consistency and just continuing to develop into a solid QBL player,'' Mate, 19, said.

"Even last year to a certain extent, I was still very young and finding my feet. Whereas this year, I feel a lot more comfortable being on the tour and taking that leadership role as point guard.''

While happy with her individual contribution, Mate is quick to highlight her team-minded approach.

She said Force's chemistry was one of the main reasons the Ipswich combination started this season's playoff series in second place.

"We've exceeded expectation in that way but we're looking forward to the weekend,'' she said.

"The best thing about us is we really do all trust each other to get the job done on the day.

"That's something you don't get in a lot of teams. We can really rely on our core group to do the work.''

After beating Mackay comfortably in last Saturday night's quarter-final, the Force players are expecting a tougher contest on their home court against the Spartans on Saturday night.

The Spartans will have a deeper bench that will test Ipswich's trademark resilience.

Having played nearly a full game against Mackay, Mate felt tired but okay.

"I'm fairly young so to bounce back is all right,'' Mate said.

"It got a bit physical towards the end of the game last weekend so a few of us pulled up a bit sore.''

With the quarter-final victory secure, Mate was still on the court in the final two minutes guiding Ipswich's younger brigade Cassie Purdon, Brooklyn Betham and Emilie Tahata.

"It's not too bad because I've played a lot of junior ball with them,'' Mate said, displaying her team qualities.

"It's good to get to see the end of that game with them and you're always trying to get them involved in the game.''

Although Force lose Newberry College recruit Meg Essex on Saturday night, they regain one of Ipswich's most exciting prospects, Catherine MacGregor.

She flies in Saturday morning from Darwin after representing Queensland Schoolgirls at the national titles.

Mate said MacGregor was a valuable addition, especially with Ipswich's development focus.

"It's a great culture at Ipswich,'' she said.

"I feel like it's easy to fit in and everyone really gets along.''

Asked how he was feeling on semi-final eve, ever-relaxed head coach Brad George answered: "All good, (time to) go and get it done''.

George said beating Spartans would be satisfying given their depth and quality.

"They are an extremely talented side,'' he said.

"They won it last year so they are the ones with all the pressure coming in.

"They are all in their late twenties, a lot of experience.

"We don't change anything in the way we play.

"The girls always play hard for each other, which gives us the opportunity to get the win.''

State of play

QBL semi-final: Saturday (6pm) - Ipswich Force v Southern Districts Spartans at Llewellyn Stadium, Booval.

Saturday's other semi: 6pm in Townsville - Townsville v Rockhampton.



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