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Welham hits a clutch shot to send Ipswich to National Cup Final

Ipswich star Harriet Welham celebrates as they reach the National Cup Final. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich star Harriet Welham celebrates as they reach the National Cup Final. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Pavel.Kricka@btinternet.com

Women’s National Cup semi-final

Bristol Flyers 72

Ipswich 74

Ipswich Basketball Club’s Senior Women booked their place in the National Cup Final in their first season together as they beat higher league Bristol Flyers 74-72 on the road.

Ipswich celebrate as the final buzzer goes at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Ipswich celebrate as the final buzzer goes at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Bristol had the better of the first quarter, with Ipswich starters Ashleigh Pink and Harriet Welham both having to take an early seat due to foul trouble. The host capitalized, taking a 23-17 lead.

The second quarter was Ipswich’s best, and where the team was able to assert their dominance on the game. A balanced attack, with baskets from Welham, Esther Little (14 points), Amy Linton and Pink (14) was aided by an outstanding defensive effort, allowing only seven points in the period.

Ipswich guard Ashleigh Pink attacks the Flyers defence from mid court. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Ipswich guard Ashleigh Pink attacks the Flyers defence from mid court. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Anchored by the physical presence of Maya Price and the efforts of Danni Cazey, guarding Bristol’s best player, Ipswich began to build their lead – taking a 38-31 lead into the half-time break.

The third and fourth quarters were intense, with Bristol gradually clawing their way back into the game, and both teams making key plays at both ends of the floor.

Ipswich head coach Nick Drane gives instructions to his team during a time-out. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Ipswich head coach Nick Drane gives instructions to his team during a time-out. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Welham, who led Ipswich with 23 points, continued to be a thorn in the hosts side, while Danni Cazey came alive, scoring eight points in a key fourth quarter run.

Late in the game, with Bristol holding a narrow lead, Little, Welham and Cazey connected on huge baskets, while Price came up with a massive defensive play to give Ipswich possession, with the game tied, with less than 20 seconds to play.

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As Ipswich played patiently, moving the ball to get the best shot for the team, Welham found herself open on the three-point line.

Welham connected on the biggest shot of the game, with the clock winding down and while Bristol were able to mount one more offence, drawing a foul and heading to the free-throw line, they were only able to make one of two, and Ipswich held on.

Esther Little gets into the key to make a layup against tough defence at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Esther Little gets into the key to make a layup against tough defence at Bristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

Ipswich face local rivals Essex in the National Cup Final at UEL on January 21. Essex are currently sitting comfortably at the top of WNBL Division One, with a record of 11-1 (8-1 in the league) in all competitions, while Ipswich are 8-0. Essex’s single loss of the season to date was away to Bristol.

Head coach Nick Drane said: “To get to the National Cup Final is special, I am not going to pretend it isn’t.

Ipswich captain Amy Linton making a fast break lay up atBristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Ipswich captain Amy Linton making a fast break lay up atBristol. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

“We have had to do this the hard way, going through a tough Division Two team in Northampton before having to beat three excellent Division One teams, in Loughborough, Reading and now Bristol, all away from home.

“We said at the start of the season that the cup would be a great way to test ourselves against the best teams and make a run at doing something special – we know it’s going to take a special effort in the final against Essex Blades, but we are more than up for the challenge.”

Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy believes young defender Chris Smith returned from his loan spell at Chelmsford ‘more of a bloke’ and is hopeful he has a first team future.

Ipswich Town U18 Academy boss Alan Lee is hoping his young charges can keep up the proud Blues tradition of success in youth football, with victory against Dagenham & Redbridge in the FA Youth Cup Fourth Round tonight, at Portman Road, 7pm ko.

Ipswich Town U23 3

QPR 0

Ben Morris hit a brace and Aaron Drinan opened his account in a blue shirt as an experienced Ipswich Town under 23 side eased past QPR 3-0 at Playford Road today, writes Kieren Standley.

FA Women’s Premier League

South East Division One

Ipswich Town 9

Haringey Borough 0

Ipswich Town Ladies bounced back from last Sunday’s disappointing FA Cup exit to Charlton with an emphatic 9-0 trouncing of bottom of the league Haringey Borough at the Goldstar Ground in Felixstowe, writes Kieren Standley.

Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen is set to appeal the red card given to Eunan O’Kane following his altercation with Jonas Knudsen.

Episode Six: Stuart Watson and Andy Warren are back for another episode of the Kings of Anglia podcast to discuss the win over Leeds, Portman Road atmosphere and the latest transfer news.

Bersant Celina revealed just how much the adulation of the Ipswich Town fans means to him after his latest match-winning effort.

It’s that kind of season. Just when everything seems to be miserable, and the fans’ anger is mounting, along comes a victory to lighten the mood. At least temporarily, writes Northstander Terry Hunt.

Saturday was a much-needed day for Town fans, writes Karl Fuller.

Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy and former Blues boss Roy Keane could be in direct competition for the Republic of Ireland job if Martin O’Neill is lured to Stoke City, according to the Irish Sun.

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