Giant-killing Ipswich side earns rest before shot at glory
AFTER one of Ipswich's grittiest and best giant-killing performances in many years, a week off is just what the proverbial doctor ordered.
However, Force head coach Chris Riches and his team welcome the home semi-final after an impressive double-header success in the last round of Queensland State League (QSL) fixtures.
That included becoming the first team to beat QSL frontrunners RedCity Roar.
"It was quite a big win for us overall,'' Riches said, proud of his side's 96-94 victory over RedCity on Saturday night.
"It was a must win for us to get into that second place and get the vital benefits of having next week off.''
The Force men completed a memorable weekend with an 85-69 win over the Gold Coast Rollers on Sunday.
The win over reputable RedCity Roar was particularly satisfying as they had won their 10 previous matches.
"They have got a great squad with a lot of talent and a lot of guys that are highly rated,'' Riches said.
"We led for a very large portion of the game as well, which is a credit to our stamina and our intensity.
"It was just really good match-ups and individual battles at any number of times throughout the game and there was a lot of passion in it as they have been a dominant force.''
One of the Force players who typified that in an outstanding team performance was captain Jason Ralph. He made 10 defensive rebounds and 11 assists to go with his 13 points.
"That's probably a reflection of where our mindset is. At the moment, it's wanting to make it as hard as possible for our opposition,'' Riches said.
"A lot of our guys are just working really, really hard at working as a whole unit - all the time both on defence and offence.''
Riches said Sunday's game was tough for his players to back up in. However, Force again produced another mighty effort.
"Gold Coast are a better unit than what they show on the table,'' Riches said.
"There was a stretch in the third quarter during that game that we really, really had to dig deep.
"It was a real credit to the boys.''
He was impressed with the multiple contributions across the weekend, led by Bullets recruit Nathan Sobey and his dependable wingman Jesse Ghee.
Having secured second spot with nine wins and two losses, the Force men have this weekend to recover while quarter-finals are played for teams finishing from third to sixth.
Ipswich is scheduled to host a QSL semi-final on Friday week. The winner advances to the grand final on Sunday week.
"Especially after a double-header this weekend, having that week of rest will be very beneficial for our group, just to be able to recharge and take some time out,'' Riches said.
"To get away from that competitive cycle which has been going now for a fair while.''
The Ipswich Force women have also qualified for the finals after beating RedCity Roar 86-74 on Saturday night and losing Sunday's match 70-64 to Gold Coast.
They finished in sixth place, setting up a quarter-final showdown with third-placed Brisbane Capitals at Auchenflower Stadium on Sunday.
The 4pm match will be livestreamed on this QT website.
Head coach Terry Lindeberg praised his team for their superb effort on Saturday night to secure a playoff spot.
"We worked really hard, played very well, shot the ball well,'' he said.
The Force girls toiled hard in Sunday's loss, unable to back up their previous night's finishing.
"We were a bit flat yesterday,'' Lindeberg said.
"We had a tough game Saturday night and I think it took its toll a little bit.
"We went hard to win it to make sure we were in the (top) six.''
Lindeberg said it was pleasing to see many players responding to the challenge of securing a finals spot.
"It's good that everyone seems to be having a good day,'' he said, noting the special weekend effort of Rachel Mate who topscored with 24 on Saturday night and contributed 16 points on Sunday.
"The top five are really producing the goods.''
Missing some games while managing a right elbow injury, co-captain Georgia Ralph played a vital role.
"She was a little bit rusty,'' Lindeberg said. "Those two games on the weekend will really help her next week hopefully.''
STATE OF PLAY
QSL Division 1 men: Ipswich Force 96 (Nathan Sobey 31, Jesse Ghee 16, Mitch Poulain 15) def RedCity Roar 94.
Ipswich Force 85 (Nathan Sobey 22, Jesse Ghee 15, Mitch Poulain 14, Kane Bishop 14) def Gold Coast Rollers 69.
QSL Division 2 women: Ipswich Force 86 (Rachel Mate 24, Amy Lewis 20, Iris Cubit 14, Georgia Ralph 14) def RedCity Roar 74.
Gold Coast Rollers 70 def Ipswich Force 64 (Amy Lewis 20, Rachel Mate 16, Catherine Macgregor 14).