Family approach keeps Ipswich teams aiming higher
BASKETBALL: During his eight state league seasons with Ipswich, Force captain Jason Ralph has shared in some terrific victories.
However, last weekend's twin success in Gladstone was up with the best of them.
Leading his men's team to a hard-fought 125-113 win against a fiercely parochial crowd was pleasing enough.
Having earlier seen his fiancee Georgia Williams share in Force's thrilling 98-94 victory enhanced the challenging road trip.
But most satisfying of all for the proud Ipswich basketballer was being part of two closeknit sides sharing a common vision.
"When we went away at the weekend, both teams just clicked like a big family,'' Ralph, 23, said.
"It was good fun.''
The men's captain recalls an enjoyable double road victory in Rockhampton about four years ago. But that wasn't as important as last weekend.
"We needed to win to keep our playoff hopes alive,'' Ralph said.
"Mathematically we can still sneak in but we pretty much need to be winning every game.
"It's always good to win in the north. It doesn't happen very often.''
While the Force women have already secured a finals spot being in third place, the Ipswich men still have plenty to focus on in their final six regular season encounters.
Both teams face the Gold Coast Rollers for the first time this season at Llewellyn Stadium on Saturday.
The Gold Coast men's side is coached by former Force mentor Mick Conlon, setting up an intriguing clash.
Ralph, vice-captain Kyle Harvey and current Force head coach Chris Riches are among those to have worked closely with Conlon in recent state league seasons.
While having a good past relationship with Conlon, Ralph said it was business as usual as the 12th placed Force men fight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
"They (Gold Coast) are probably one of the best teams on paper in the whole league. They just haven't been able to put it together themselves,'' Ralph said.
"It will be good to take on Mickey C, last year's coach.''
Ralph is looking to in-form Harvey to continue his impressive run, having just been named QBL Player of the Week for the second time this season.
Harvey scored 46 points and nailed 10 rebounds in a fine display of court control.
"He's playing well,'' Ralph said of the American import, also praising his team for working together.
"He's scoring a lot of points but he's not having to do it all himself.
"The boys are just getting the ball to him in the right spots.''
Force newcomers like Garrett Hall are also playing vital team roles.
"To win a close game and finally be rewarded was good.
"The guys are such a good group. We work so hard at practice.
"That's why we enjoyed getting that win on Saturday night.''
As for the Force women's side, Ralph said their imports Amanda "AJ'' Johnson and Gintare "Gigi'' Mazionyte were valuable assets in a great squad.
He said the Force women were combining superbly as a unit, underlining why they are well positioned in third place with 10 wins and just two losses.
Head coach Brad George said all his players backed up well after last weekend's road trip, which involved a lot of travelling by bus and long waits for play.
"We had a lighter week this week (at training),'' George said, expecting Gold Coast to provide a decent challenge in Ipswich.
"They have a couple of good bigs in there so they will be tough. They played really well last week against (USC) Rip, so they'll be coming in with confidence.''
Ralph said the players in both Force teams were really close this season, highlighted by some post-game get-togethers including for a State of Origin match.
QBL Saturday (games at 5pm and 7pm): Ipswich Force men and women v Gold Coast Rollers at Llewellyn Stadium, Booval.