Double trouble: Why Ipswich teams have plenty to ponder
THE Ipswich Force women were fortunate to get away with one win before their male counterparts were unlucky not to roll the competition leaders.
Such were the nail-biting contests in the latest Queensland Basketball League doubleheader clashes at Llewellyn Stadium.
Force women's coach Brad George was annoyed his team reverted to its nervous ways against lower placed teams.
Force only just beat the winless Brisbane Capitals 61-59 on Saturday night following another tight struggle 24 hours earlier. The Gold Coast held on 83-82 over Force in that game.
Ipswich's disappointing week-end was further hampered with star shooter Amanda "AJ'' Johnson getting into foul trouble on Saturday night and only scoring seven points.
AJ is battling a sore back, which restricted her trademark agility in back-to-back games.
With key recruit Amy Lewis heading overseas for a short holiday, Force have some issues to contend with this week before their next clash with North Gold Coast at Runaway Bay on Saturday night.
Most concerning for George though was his team's inability to fire up for back-to-back games.
"It was a terrible weekend,'' he said. "It was back to what we doing in the first couple of weeks . . . just making too many errors defensively and not playing smart.''
Ipswich set up a victory opportunity over the Gold Coast leading by 11 at one stage.
However, Force faded again when it mattered most.
George said his top four team was failing mentally to handle the pressure of being favourites. "I think they play with too much nervous energy when they're expected to win,'' he said.
That is in contrast to composed Force sides of previous seasons and even last weekend.
Consistency is proving a challenge this season.
With AJ limited in her contribution, Georgia Ralph was a shining light in the third quarter on Saturday night to finish with 16 points.
The Ipswich Force men led 96-93 in the final quarter against previously unbeaten Brisbane Capitals. However, led by dangerous duo Aaron Anderson and Jason Cadee, the competition pacesetters found a way to secure a one-point victory in the final seconds.
But while disappointed his team wasn't rewarded with a fourth win, head coach Chris Riches said the performance showed how far his team has progressed from last season.
"For our guys, they did well across the night,'' he said.
"Right at the end of the game, those two shots they (Capitals) took were contested . . . and they still made them.
"Some of the shots they made were just fantastic.''
That level of maturity and experience provided another valuable lesson for a promising Ipswich side.
"Across the board, our team is a better basketball team than what we were last year,'' Riches said.
"There's been no team that we haven't had a run against.
"We just have to keep playing hard. We'll get better.''
In Friday night's encounter, stand-in Ipswich captain Kyle Harvey led the way with 29 points in the 113-88 loss to the Gold Coast.
Force lost their tenacious captain Jason Ralph for both games with a back injury.
Riches brought Brisbane recruit Jesse Ghee in to help out. "He came in and did a really fine job,'' Riches said.
"Friday night was a bit of a struggle . . . trying some different things to try and settle the ship. But on Saturday night, it was a much better performance across the group.''
"We got back to playing our style of basketball.''
QBL men: Brisbane Capitals 97 def Ipswich Force 96 (Kyle Harvey 35, Marty Leahy 15); Gold Coast 113 def Ipswich Force 88 (Kyle Harvey 29, Jess Ghee 16).
QBL women: Ipswich Force 61 (Georgia Ralph 16, Amy Lewis 14) def Brisbane Capitals 59; Gold Coast 83 def Ipswich Force 82 (Amanda Johnson 25, Georgia Ralph 13).