National league player to boost Ipswich's 2019 hopes
THE Ipswich Force women are already looking to go one better in 2019 after enjoying their most successful season in Queensland Basketball League history.
After 16 wins and just two losses in this year's regular state league series, the formidable Force combination finished in second place.
Only a lack of depth cost Force a shot at grand final glory after five players were unavailable in the playoffs due to college commitments.
However, returning head coach Brad George has moved swiftly to address that issue.
With the main group of players returning, George has secured another elite basketballer in former South East Queensland Stars Women's National Basketball League captain Amy Lewis.
George worked with Lewis when he was assistant coach at the Stars.
He was thrilled to have the former Victorian and American College shooting guard join the talent-rich Force line-up.
"She's a really aggressive defender and aggressive to the basket,'' George said. "And her leadership, being captain and playing internationals, she brings a lot more experience as well.''
With promising Ipswich teenager Kate Head ineligible to play for Force due to her 2019 American Division 1 College commitments, Lewis will provide another welcome driving force.
The former Stars (2015-16), Townsville Fire (2008-10) and Adelaide Lightning (2010-14) national leaguer has also played alongside Ipswich's dependable captain Bree Farley, who is returning next year.
"We're getting there,'' George said, encouraged by early preparations for next season.
"We've pretty much got the core back in the guards.
"Next we'll be working on getting the bigs back and add some other pieces.''
That includes seeing if last year's terrific imports Amanda "AJ'' Johnson and Gintare "Gigi'' Mazionyte can also return after their tremendous efforts for Ipswich last season.
American recruit AJ was recruited by the Sydney Flames for the Women's National Basketball League but hasn't received a lot of court time.
Gigi's return depends on next season's schedule, her European opportunities and financial factors.
"We'll see if it works,'' George said.
Having lost 89-84 to Southern Districts in the second round of the 2018 playoffs, Force will head into next year boosted by the added depth.
George expects some exciting young players to continue looking for court time in the Ipswich program, under the guidance of Lewis and past season regulars like Farley, Rachel Mate and Georgia Williams.
Exciting regional prospect Catherine Macgregor is also keen to gain more state league experience after some tremendous efforts off the bench in recent months.
"We've got a good group of really talented 16-year girls coming through,'' George said.
"Players more Catherine's age now looking to try and push for spots too so hopefully for the first time, there will be an opportunity with a lot of people fighting for positions.
"It should be good.''
Former Force powerhouse performer Lauren O'Sullivan is also considering a return to the Ipswich side she was a valuable part of before having a break.
O'Sullivan was a regular spectator at QBL women's games this season, keeping in touch with the team.
The 2019 QBL men's and women's seasons are set to tip off in April.
George plans to get his Force squad together in February after encouraging them to have a relaxing break over Christmas.
"Keeping the core together for the first time in a long time, the girls know what we want to do,'' he said. "We can just keep adding and get the team better.''