Bobcats maintain title challenge

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Ipswich Bobcats maintained their National League challenge by scoring a solid victory over Leicester Ladies when the sides met at Maidenhall.

Ipswich Bobcats maintained their National League challenge by scoring a solid victory over Leicester Ladies when the sides met at Maidenhall.

Bobcats were without point guard Kayleigh Read, who was selected for the Cadet side in their important National Cup match at Northampton. But with Hannah Webber stepping up to take her place in the starting five, Ipswich were still able to field a strong line-up.

Kirsty Clark hit five points in the opening minute and strong inside play from Jessica Gray gave Bobcats an 8-0 lead midway through the quarter.

Bobcats were playing far from their best despite their comfortable start and received a wake-up call when Leicester's Irish guard Kathy Reid hit two three-pointers in the sixth minute to give the visitors a 9-8 lead.

Ipswich coach Elaine Miller called a time out to try to ignite some spark into Bobcats' play and although Clark kept up her good work to score 12 of her 18-point tally in the opening quarter, Ipswich failed to ignite despite ending the period with a 20-14 lead.

Gray found her form again at the start of the second quarter and Ipswich stretched their lead to 29-18 after four minutes when Clark was again on hand to convert a pair of free throws. Leicester fought back with baskets by Alison Sinden and impressive point guard Keem Taylor to trail 33-26 three minutes before half time, but a crucial third foul by Reid meant that player/coach Hazel Shaw was forced to substitute her key player.

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Ipswich took full advantage and piled on fourteen unanswered points in the closing stages of the quarter, with Laura Shemming, Hannah Webber and Helen Wood all proving effective on the fast break.

Now leading 47-26, Bobcats were full of confidence at the restart and continued their run with a basket from Catherine McLean and a strong drive by Gray to go 51-26 ahead. A three-pointer from Taylor ended Leicester's barren spell and a three-point play from Sinden and a corner shot from Reid saw the visitors recover to 51-34 midway through the third quarter.

Ipswich again turned up the pressure, and another fourteen point streak, dominated by Gray but with effective contributions from Clark, Shemming and Emma Bass, saw Bobcats extend the lead to 65-36 as the match went into the final quarter.

Leicester's plight had worsened when Reid fouled out at the end of the third quarter, and Bobcats took advantage when a basket by Gray was quickly followed by a three-pointer from Webber as Ipswich went 70-38 ahead.

Ipswich were able to extend their lead in the closing stages, when a free throw from Kirsty Banns launched an unanswered eight point run which saw Bobcats secure a deserved 82-44 victory and maintain second place to Tyne & Wear Northumbria in the Division Two (North) table.

Bobcats continue their National League campaign on Sunday afternoon when they face Stockport Lapwings at Maidenhall Sports Centre.

Stockport moved into third place in the table with an impressive 66-48 victory over Derby at the weekend and should provide strong opposition for Bobcats, who will be without Jessica Gray for their last fixture before the Christmas break.

The match tips off at 3.00 p.m.

Ipswich Bobcats players and scorers: J Gray 34, K Clark 18, L Shemming 10, H Webber 9, C McLean 4, H Wood 4, E Bass 2, K Banns 1

Leicester Ladies players and scorers: K Taylor 18, K Reid 11, A Sinden 5, H Shaw 4, A Brownlow 2, R Jerram 2, L Orton 2

Other scores: Sheffield 56 Birmingham University 45, Stockport 66 Derby 48.

Women's National League

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