Bobcats feel the Force
Basketball: Birmingham Force 75 Ipswich Bobcats 51 - Ipswich Bobcats travelled to the Midlands on Saturday and suffered only their second league defeat of the season when a 39-30 half time lead turned into a controversial 51-75 defeat at the hands of Birmingham Force.
Birmingham Force 75 Ipswich Bobcats 51
Ipswich Bobcats travelled to the Midlands on Saturday and suffered only their second league defeat of the season when a 39-30 half time lead turned into a controversial 51-75 defeat at the hands of Birmingham Force.
Birmingham were undefeated going into the match and held third place with games in hand over both Ipswich and Tyne & Wear, who they had beaten a week earlier. The stage was therefore set for an exciting and close match, and the first half was to provide a keenly fought contest.
Birmingham's Wendy Smith drew two early fouls on Jessica Gray and the resultant free throws gave the home side a 3-1 lead. Bobcats coach Elaine Miller protected the American centre by switching defensive duties with Laura Shemming, and Gray dominated on offence, adding 11 points in just four minutes as Ipswich stormed to a 15-6 lead.
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Birmingham fought back with a three-pointer from Emma Brown and a basket from experienced captain Elaine White, but Bobcats were good value for their 15-12 lead at the end of the quarter and continued their domination at the restart, when their full court press saw Kirsty Clark and Laura Shemming extend the Ipswich lead to 28-15.
Klamparova hit a three-pointer to end an 11 point Ipswich streak but Kayleigh Read was equally effective from long range and a big three-pointer from Catherine McLean gave Bobcats a 36-22 lead. Birmingham again finished the quarter strongly and successive three-pointers from Anita Renton and Emma Brown reduced Bobcats' advantage to 39-30 at the interval.
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The match had been a hard fought niggling affair, which the match officials had failed to get to grips with, and the second half was to see the game degenerate further. Gray was afforded little protection inside the key and picked up her third foul when defending White but Bobcats remained in control when they held a 45-34 lead midway through the third quarter.
A three-pointer from Smith sparked a period of Birmingham domination which was to see the home side add 11 unanswered points to tie the scores at 45 apiece going into the final quarter. Worse still was Gray's foul situation, as Bobcats' leading scorer had picked up a fourth foul during the Birmingham streak and was in danger of fouling out.
The aggressive Smith played on this, goading Gray into a technical foul that fouled her out with nine minutes still to play. Gray was incensed by the decision and received a further technical foul for dissent, but amazingly Smith's taunting of Gray on the Ipswich bench to try to goad her into a third technical foul went unpunished.
The impetus was now clearly with Birmingham and they extended their unanswered run to 17 points before Helen Wood restored Bobcats waning confidence with two successful free throws after Brown fouled her.
Birmingham proved too strong inside, and with Gray on the bench Bobcats conceded four baskets in a two-minute spell to give the home side an unassailable 59-47 lead. Natalie Field came off the bench and scored from a long range effort, but Bobcats plight worsened when Shemming became the second player to foul out, when she committed a fifth foul on Brown with two minutes to play.
By this stage, the match officials had completely lost control of the game, and their lack of consistency had so incensed Bobcats coach Elaine Miller that she was disqualified for the first time in her career when she picked up two technical fouls for dissent in the final minute.
Bobcats return to action in three weeks time when they have two home games at Maidenhall Sports Centre. They take on Birmingham University on Saturday, 9th February with a 6.30 p.m. tip off and then have the chance to avenge their defeat when they take on Birmingham Force on Sunday, 10th February, tipping off at 1.30pm.
Ipswich Bobcats players and scorers: J Gray 17, K Clark 9, K Read 9, L Shemming 9, C McLean 3, N Field 2, H Wood 2, K Banns 0, K Button 0, L Lindsay 0.
Birmingham Force players and scorers: W Smith 28, D Klamparova 10 A Renton 10, E Brown 8, E White 8, J White 5, N Roberts 4, B Perry 2, S Dhillon 0, J Francis 0.
Women's National League Division Two North results: 75 Birmingham Force v Ipswich 51, 56 Birmingham University v Stockport 76, 60 Oxford v Derby 50, 45 Sheffield v Northumbria Tyne & Wear 76.