Mighty comeback: Why Ipswich women so tenacious
IF multiple challenges are designed to test a team's tenacity, the Ipswich Force women are rising to make the grade.
Despite more major issues over the weekend, the Force side beat Logan 86-76 at Llewellyn Stadium today following Saturday night's 72-67 away victory over Toowoomba.
Player illness, regulars unavailable and freezing conditions combined to set Ipswich a massive task winning back-to-back Queensland Basketball League games.
But as they have so gallantly in the past, Force rose above their obstacles to stamp their claim as a state title threat. They have secured a finals' spot with three matches left.
"If we can get them all for the finals will be allright,'' Force head coach Brad George said. "But right now, we're just hoping to get through all the changes.''
Today's victory over Logan came after the Force women had to contend with cold conditions the night before due to no heating in the Toowoomba stadium.
But after rallying late to secure win number 10, Force lifted their tally to 11 successes from 15 matches this season.
"It was much better today, the effort,'' George said, disappointed with Saturday night's performance.
"The energy was up.''
Without Rachel Mate (virus), Amy Lewis (overseas) and Lauren O'Sullivan (concussion), Force were out of sorts on Saturday night.
It took a spirited final quarter from Amanda Johnson and Kaili McLaren to score 29 of the 31 final-quarter points to get the Ipswich team out of trouble.
Johnson was also still struggling with a back injury and breathing difficulties.
"We just lacked any sort of energy,'' George said. "We didn't deserve to win.''
However, today's game was a different story with former national league player McLaren again stepping up with 26 points, having tackled some recent hip problems.
"She was great. She's tough,'' George said.
Two other positives over the weekend were the performances of late arrival Courtney Taylor and teenage representative player Grace Ellis.
"She's been the difference,'' George said of Taylor, who provided terrific control at crucial times after only joining the squad a fortnight ago.
Ellis contributed a valuable 22 minutes today.
"She's really taken the opportunity with the other players being out,'' George said. "She's just working hard.''
Meanwhile, Force men's coach Chris Riches appreciated the later than usual start today at Llewellyn Stadium after Saturday night's trip to Toowoomba. However, his team just fell short in the second game of the weekend.
With his team walking the finals' tightrope starting the doubleheader, Force secured their fifth win 116-92 against Toowoomba before today's 109-102 loss to Logan.
Ipswich led 48-44 at halftime before Logan got on top late.
Riches was encouraged with his team's effort having captain Jason Ralph still sidelined and regular Marty Leahy representing Papua New Guinea at the Pacific Games in Samoa.
"There was really, really good production in regards to our scoring output,'' Riches said.
"We haven't had Jason which has been a huge challenge for us . . . but last night and probably in the second half of last week's game against Runaway Bay, we're starting to see more of the guys firing at once.''
Force's multiple scoring options against Toowoomba came from vice-captain Kyle Harvey (25), Mitch Poulain (18), Josh Spiers (18) and Jayden Ferguson (15).
Riches was also pleased to see another Ipswich product Kobe Robinson step up and gain confidence with some big shots when Jesse Ghee got into early foul trouble.
"He just played phenomenal,'' Riches said.
"It's always difficult because there's a big jump up (to QBL) for a lot of these guys in regards to what competition they are playing in and what they are exposed to week-to-week.''
The Force teams play Gold Coast at Carrara in their next matches on Saturday.
State of play
QBL women: Ipswich Force 86 (Kaili McLaren 26, Amanda Johnson 22) def Logan 76; Ipswich Force 72 (Amanda Johnson 30, Kaili McLaren 19) def Toowoomba 67.
QBL men: Logan 109 def Ipswich Force 102 (Jesse Ghee 31, Kyle Harvey 24); Ipswich Force 116 (Kyle Harvey 25, Mitch Poulain 18, Josh Spiers 18) def Toowoomba 92.