Ipswich's double treat: Second win and birthday cake
THRILLED to be back in Ipswich, livewire basketballer Amanda "AJ'' Johnson enjoyed some birthday cake to put the icing on her team's much-needed state league double.
The American import had spent the off-season playing for Sydney Uni Flames in the Women's National Basketball League competition.
After a quiet start in Ipswich's Queensland Basketball League season-opening loss to Mackay, AJ showcased her on-court brilliance in two terrific weekend performances.
She top scored for Ipswich Force in Friday night's "outstanding'' 100-75 win over Rockhampton, before helping her side complete back-to-back victories with a 88-77 win over Gladstone 24 hours later.
The home court winning double fittingly came as the team celebrated a spate of birthdays, including manager and former captain Marney George on the night.
Rachel Mate, Kaili McLaren, Amy Lewis, Catherine Macgregor and Kirstyn Lunnis have also just had, or have birthdays this week.
"It's a pleasure be back,'' AJ said, enjoying her slice of birthday cake.
"Just a really good vibe. All our team really is serious about being here.''
After helping Ipswich finish second in last year's regular season, AJ was keen to embrace her new teammates Lewis, McLaren and Mikaela King.
"We saw what we were able to accomplish last year and want to just keep building off that,'' she said.
"We've got some people coming in that have really lifted . . . and that's given us some energy and some effort.''
As for her early form in her second season with Ipswich, AJ conceded she was getting her confidence back after her first WNBL stint, mainly off the bench with Sydney.
"Definitely a different role, different expectations, different productivity loads, things like that,'' she said.
"I've taken what I can from that (Sydney) experience and continue to build my game.
"We had a really good line-up. It was a humbling opportunity.''
Being from California, AJ enjoyed linking with women who "had some quality professional experience here in Australia''.
AJ, 29, also savoured the life experience of spending time in Sydney.
She got to see the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour bridge and had a helicopter ride over the northern beaches.
As for returning to Ipswich without her trademark coloured hair, AJ responded with a devious smile.
"It's toned down for me,'' AJ said, amused by the reaction she's received. "We'll see how long it takes (to change again).''
Force head coach Brad George was a happier man on Saturday night after watching his team seal the state league double following a hugely disappointing opening game.
"Last night we played outstanding,'' George said, pleased how his players got themselves ready for a massive clash.
"Tonight we were picking and choosing a little bit when we were going to play hard.''
Johnson led the way in the third and fourth quarters on Saturday night after Ipswich trailed 22-20 at quarter-time and 40-39 at the main break.
Force captain Bree Farley also stepped up, nailing back-to-back three-pointers late in the second quarter to keep her team in the game.
Georgia Williams joined the three-point assault in the final quarter to extend Ipswich's lead to 85-73 before the home team closed out the match.
"We had five players in double figures, 35 assists and we're not relying on one person to make the shots,'' George said.
Both Ipswich Force teams head north later this week to play Townsville and Cairns in their first road trip of the new QBL season.
QBL women: Ipswich Force 88 (Amanda Johnson 29, Amy Lewis 16) def Gladstone 77; Ipswich Force 100 (Amanda Johnson 25, Georgia Williams 23) def Rockhampton 75.