Head coach Drane happy with his side's improvement despite Loughborough loss
PUBLISHED: 13:25 02 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:25 02 February 2016
Despite Saturday's 80-73 loss to Loughborough, Ipswich head coach Nick Drane insists that his team have turned a corner and are playing their best basketball of the season.
Ipswich led from the start of the game until there was just seven minutes as the Riders took pole position in the league and the Suffolk side Ipswich slipped down to seventh place – even though they remain just two points from being joint top.
But Drane said: “For three quarters today I think we were awesome, absolutely fantastic.
“We have struggled all season with chemistry and finding something that works and I think since Christmas we have looked a much better team.”
There have been some significant line-up changes in the Ipswich team since the start of the season, with Taner Adu leaving and dominant centre Leigh Greenan injured for the year.
And a change in style of play, primarily due to the loss of Greenan, has seen Ipswich look to be a more cohesive unit in recent weeks.
“With no Leigh, we have become a more guard-orientated team – we are not as powerful inside, but the guards have a lot more freedom,” said Drane.
On Saturday, it was foul trouble that cost Ipswich the game.
They were forced to finish with both Josh Johnson and new signing Eddie Ferreira on the bench, meaning Ipswich were without help at the guard position as Loughborough pressed to chase the game.
Ipswich were in control for three quarters but as Drane went to his bench in the fourth, Loughborough took advantage, winning the period 29-17 to steal the 80-73 win.
Captain Tom Sadler again led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Sam Newman and Caleb Fuller both added 17 points.
Had Ipswich won the game they would now be sitting in joint first place, as NBL Division Two shows no signs of getting any clearer in terms of who will join Loughborough in the top two.
Nottingham and London Pioneers both lost at the weekend, meaning Ipswich are essentially no further behind the chasing pack than they were before the ball went up on Saturday.
The reality is, if Ipswich can win their next four games, they will be right in the mix as the season approaches its climax.
But that’s a big ‘if’ as Ipswich just haven’t been able to beat the teams above them so far this season.
And Drane is adamant that they are too far behind to make a serious promotion push.
He explained: “I’ve already said that we are not thinking about promotion.
“Loughborough, Pioneers and Solent are in a position to make this a three-horse race.
“Nottingham, ELAS, Arrows and ourselves could be in the mix if we win a few in a row, but nobody seems to be able to do that, so we are working with the target of a top-four finish and home court for the play-offs as our goal.”
Ipswich travel to Derbyshire Arrows on Saturday, before they head to Liverpool the following weekend.
Ahead of the Arrows game Drane said: “Arrows are a really tough team to beat, especially at their place, they have proved this season that they have a knack for winning close games and like ourselves, probably feel that they could and should still be in the mix for promotion.
“We’ve had some epic games against them, there’s a bit of a rivalry but it is borne out of seven very tough games between the two teams over the past three seasons.
“I have a lot of respect for them”.