Hard-working Ipswich men rise to mighty challenge
BASKETBALL: It was the victory the Ipswich Force men worked so hard for and deserved.
As delighted head coach Chris Riches rightly declared, "it was a good bit of validation'' after what his new-look team was focusing on.
"We finally saw last night the light at the end of the tunnel,'' Riches said after watching his committed side upset the Brisbane Capitals 112-90 in their latest Queensland Basketball League clash.
"The guys just showed that they could play as we always knew they could.''
After losses to Cairns and Logan at home, the Force men responded to Riches' pre-game call to lift their intensity against one of the competition's most established combinations. Force did at Auchenflower stadium.
In his fifth season with Force, American import Kyle Harvey delivered a memorable performance with 36 points and 17 rebounds.
"We've really turned the corner in having him go out and be able to play more of his natural game,'' Riches said of his vice-captain.
"He's specifically playing a guard role, which allows him to get his hands on the ball a lot more . . . allows him to be a shooter, or a driver, using a lot more of his skill set.''
Force newcomer Garrett Hall also stepped up with 26 valuable points. That included three, three-pointers in a row at the end of the third quarter.
"That really broke their spirit,'' Riches said. "He felt last night he really started to click on his shot.
"Things just kind of came together where we've been working at this for the last three or four months.''
On a night the Force women secured their third state league win in a row, all Riches' troops stood tall.
James Kuon started with Joe Owens being rested. Mitch Poulain and Kresto Wal provided terrific contributions at key times. Captain Jason Ralph scored 16 points.
The coach used the latest clash as a yardstick of his team's improvement, after Force lost both pre-season games to the Capitals.
"Especially after having such a tough week at training, it was good for the guys to be able to come out and release a lot of that pressure,'' Riches said.
"We worked extensively on a lot of stuff and it was a lot of individual things we held guys accountable to this week. And they just rose to the challenge.''
The Force women maintained their unbeaten record with a 68-59 win over the Brisbane Capitals.
In what head coach Brad George described as an ugly result, he was disappointed with his team's 24 turnovers.
"It was an odd game. It was really scrappy,'' George said.
"Brisbane don't play with any real structure and they are the difficult ones (to win). When they play that scrappy style, you never know what you are going to get.''
However, pleasing for the experienced coach was the terrific form of American Amanda "AJ" Johnson who scored 25 points and made a stunning 28 rebounds.
Force's latest import Gintare Mazionyte also settled in to her new team environment contributing 18 points.
While the game never reached any great heights, Force led 35-17 at halftime and completed the job.
State of play
QBL men: Ipswich Force 112 (Kyle Harvey 36, Garrett Hall 26) def Brisbane Capitals 90 at Auchenflower.
QBL women: Ipswich Force 68 (Amanda Johnson 25, Gintare Maziontye 18) def Brisbane Capitals 59 at Auchenflower.
Next games: Sunday v Southern Districts at Rowland Cowan Stadium.