Bobcats show claws in extra-time win

BASKETBALL: Ipswich Bobcats 67 Sheffield Hallam 60. Ipswich Bobcats scored a 67-60 extra-time victory in a hard fought and exciting encounter with Sheffield Hallam Hatters in National League Division Two North at Maidenhall.

Ipswich Bobcats 67 Sheffield Hallam 60

IPSWICH Bobcats scored a 67-60 extra-time victory in a hard fought and exciting encounter with Sheffield Hallam Hatters in National League Division Two North at Maidenhall.

Bobcats fell behind when Sarah Winter and Helen Catto gave Hatters an early 4-2 advantage, but aggressive offensive boards by Helen Wood and an unstoppable performance by Laura Shemming saw the Ipswich captain score all her side's points as the scores were tied at 12-12 with three minutes of the first quarter to play.

Hatters captain Liz Ward scored four baskets in as many minutes, but a three-pointer and a lay-up by Kayleigh Read enabled Ipswich to recover to trail 17-18 at the end of the quarter.

Sheffield pulled further ahead with two points from the line by Katie Webb after she was fouled by Catherine McLean, but a pair of free throws by Line Brodie and a second three-pointer from Read were enough for Bobcats to gain a 22-20 advantage.

The introduction Natalie Field brought immediate rewards when she scored with her first touch of the ball, and Shemming's continued domination saw Bobcats outscore Hatters 11-4 in a six-minute spell to secure a deserved 33-24 half-time lead.

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Ward continued to be Hatters' principal threat, but her two baskets in the opening six minutes of the third quarter were Sheffield's only successes as Bobcats stepped up the defensive pressure. Field, Shemming, Brodie and Read all added to the Ipswich score during this period, and Bobcats looked to have the game won when they held a commanding 41-28 lead.

A three-pointer from Catto sparked a Sheffield revival and ten unanswered points saw Hatters pull back to 41-38 going into the final minute of the third quarter.

A basket by Hannah Webber and two free throws by Shemming ended Bobcats barren spell, but Ipswich coach Elaine Miller knew her side had a fight on their hands when they held a slender 45-38 lead going into the final quarter.

Hatters were clearly inspired by their third-quarter efforts and two more baskets by Ward were quickly followed by a free throw by Winter and lay-up by Catto as Sheffield added seven points without reply to tie the scores at 45-45.

Shemming and McLean were successful from the line, but a determined performance by Sheffield gave the visitors a 51-49 lead with less than three minutes to play.

Bobcats responded with yet another basket from Shemming, and a crucial three-pointer by Brodie restored a 55-51 Ipswich lead as the match went into the final minute.

Webb scored off a lay-up to reduce the deficit to two points, but a free throw from Wood gave Ipswich a 56-53 lead with just over thirty seconds left.

Hatters coach Loraine Gayle called a time out, and her side responded with strong drives to the basket late in the game, the first resulting in a point from the free-throw line by Webb and the second in a basket to tie the scores at 56-56 and take the match into extra-time.

Ipswich quickly put the pressure back on Sheffield when Shemming brought her tally to a game-high 27 points with a basket and a free throw.

A lay-up by Read then took Bobcats 61-56 ahead, but Fiona Lawson held her nerve to convert both free throws after being fouled by Read on the next Sheffield offence. Wood scored from an accurate corner shot, before Ward completed her 22-point tally with a similar long-range effort to reduce the Ipswich lead to 63-60 with two minutes of extra-time remaining.

Brodie then stepped up her game and scored two important mid-range baskets to seal a 67-60 Ipswich victory and maintain Bobcats third place in the Division Two North table with one match of the regular season left to play.

Bobcats make a testing trip to Cheshire on Saturday, when they face Stockport Lapwings, who narrowly beat them in the National Trophy Final last month.

The clubs share identical 11-4 win-loss records going into the match, which will decide third and fourth place prior to the Championship play-offs, which start a week later. The match will be played at Peel Moat Sports Centre and tips off at 6pm.

Ipswich Bobcats players and scorers: L Shemming 27, Line Brodie 13, K Read 13, N Field 6, C McLean 3, H Wood 3, H Webber 2, K Banns 0, K Button 0, L Lindsay 0

Sheffield Hallam Hatters players and scorers: L Ward 22, H Catto 15, S Winter 8, K Webb 7, V Warner 6, F Lawson 2, L Capewell 0, H Gibson 0, K Vaines 0.

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