Ipswich grit keeping team in state league finals
BASKETBALL: With a patched-up side, the Ipswich Force women welcome just one state league match this weekend.
After some testing doubleheaders in recent weeks, Force play Gold Coast at Carrara on Saturday keen to consolidate their top four spot for the fast-approaching finals.
Winning their last three games will ensure Ipswich hosts a match in the first week-end of this year's Queensland Basketball League playoffs.
Having recently lost Lauren O'Sullivan (concussion) for the rest of the season, Force have been battling gamely without Rachel Mate (glandular fever) and valuable recruit Amy Lewis (overseas).
The ever-dependable Amanda Johnson has been struggling with a back injury but still toiling hard for the Ipswich team.
"We just have to keep trying to get better,'' head coach Brad George said, mindful of the different playoff scenarios.
The Force women currently sit fourth on the QBL table with 11 wins and four losses. That is the same record as third-placed Townsville, who have a better percentage.
Saturday's opponents Gold Coast have 10 wins and five losses, giving Ipswich added incentive to maintain a top four break.
With key players unavailable, George was pleased to have secured the service of Courtney Taylor before the player roster cut-off period this season. She's been a valuable addition in recent games.
George is also pleased to see Force's young brigade stepping up.
"Grace Ellis was the one that's really stood up,'' George said. "She was fantastic on the weekend.''
Catherine Macgregor is another player capable of making an impact when the opportunity arises.
Gold Coast beat Force 83-82 by a point in the first round.
But with their player issues, having one match this week-end helps the Ipswich women manage their testing situation better.
Meanwhile, Force men's head coach Chris Riches said his team has plenty to play for Saturday despite slipping out of finals' contention.
The 11th placed men head to Carrara for a clash with second-placed Gold Coast, guided by former Ipswich coach Mick Conlon.
"We can still finish with the same win-loss record as what we had last year,'' Riches said.
"If we could go close to that mark, especially with the disruptions this year we've had across some of the key positions, it's still a fair result.''
Like the women, the Force men have been forced to contend with major challenges, including having American import Jayden Ferguson injured for eight weeks and losing captain Jason Ralph in recent weeks to a back injury.
However, Riches remains committed to bringing on exciting prospects including Alec Godinet and Kobe Robinson who have stepped up in supportive roles when called upon.
"We still feel there's a planning and development that you get out of it and we're starting to see some of that pay off,'' Riches said.
Riches was pleased to watch Mitch Poulain improving and Ferguson getting better after his injury setback.
"It's just a lot of positives,'' he said.
"All it is (now) is just about getting more of those things firing at the right time.''
Another Force player Marty Leahy is due back from the Pacific Games next week.
"In the home stretch for us, we have got three single games for the next three weeks . . . and that's a bit of a luxury,'' the Force head coach after recent doubleheaders.
"There's still a lot of stuff that we can get out of the season.''
QBL: Tonight - Ipswich Force v Gold Coast at Carrara. Women play at 6pm before the men's game at 8pm.