Top duels: Ipswich bracing for mighty rivals at home
HAVING two weeks free of school duties from tonight, Ipswich Force coach Chris Riches is planning to devote more time to his team's state league preparation.
The Ipswich State High School teacher will take his trademark thorough approach to another level when he incorporates more video and individual sessions.
"That's the benefit of working as a teacher. You get to have those extra hours on holiday periods,'' Riches said.
However, the meticulous Ipswich mentor has to guide his team through one of their toughest doubleheaders first before looking further ahead in this year's Queensland Basketball League.
The Force men tackle fourth-placed Gold Coast at Ipswich stadium tonight before meeting competition leaders Brisbane Capitals, also at home, tomorrow night.
Gold Coast is being coached by Mick Conlon, a former Ipswich Force official Riches worked with before his move to a new team.
"He's a very good coach,'' Riches said, still keeping in touch with Conlon.
And being a "big budget'' team, the Coast have recruited well this season.
The Capitals side includes high-scoring threat Jason Cadee, who Riches describes as the "heart and soul of everything they do''.
However, as he always does, Riches welcomes the chance to measure his team against powerhouse sides like the unbeaten Capitals (10 from 10) and Gold Coast (eight wins, two losses).
"It certainly will be tough,'' Riches said, preparing to return home after last week's away victory over South West Metro.
"Both teams (Capitals and Gold Coast) have been playing well this season.
"At the end of the day, this is where you've got to earn it (victory). That's what it is all about.''
The Force team (three wins, seven losses) have displayed patches of their best this season.
Being big on improvement, consistency and performance, Riches knows those three elements will need to come together this weekend.
"It's a situation where you've got to put your best performance forward,'' he said.
Riches expects more contributions across the court to support ever-reliable vice-captain Kyle Harvey, who tops the scoring list every game.
"Everyone has shown throughout this part of the season that they can play at this level,'' Riches said.
"Now it's about just getting all the team performances happening at the same time.''
The Force coach was monitoring his captain Jason Ralph who has been managing a lower back injury in recent weeks.
Ralph will be given until just before the match to confirm he's right to play.
Force will also lose Marty Leahy in a couple of weeks on Papua New Guinea national team duty.
Meanwhile, the Force women meet lower ranked teams in their two clashes at Ipswich stadium tonight and tomorrow night.
Having worked into third place with seven wins and three losses, Ipswich play seventh-placed Gold Coast first-up before hoping to keep the Capitals winless tomorrow night.
Head coach Brad George was monitoring chief scorer Amanda "AJ'' Johnson and valuable starter Lauren O'Sullivan heading into last night's training session.
He was most wary of Gold Coast tonight who he expected to be up for a big game being in touch with the top five.
However, two wins this weekend will keep Force in touch with unbeaten leaders Southern Districts and second placed Rockhampton Rockets, who have an eight win-two loss record.
QBL tonight: Ipswich Force v Gold Coast Rollers (women play at 6.30pm with men's game at 8.30pm).
Tomorrow: Ipswich Force v Brisbane Capitals (women play at 5pm with men's match at 7pm).
All games at Ipswich stadium, Booval.