Ipswich clinch spot in national finals day

Coach Nick Drane has labelled Ipswich Basketball Academy’s march to the British Colleges Sport National Basketball Cup finals day as one of his best achievements in the game.

The Copleston-based academy’s under-19s defeated visitors Filton College, from Bristol, 84-72 last Wednesday, to move into the ‘final four’ with Noel Baker Community School (Derby), Barking Abbey School (London) and Loreto College (Manchester) on March 29.

Drane, who guided the England under-16s to a European Championship silver medal last year, also paid tribute to injured guard Joel Keeble, who missed the game having had reconstructive surgery on his knee, after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament last year.

“I have been involved with teams that have won national championships where the expectations were already high but this time, given the fact that one of our best players had such an horrendous injury, to be able to compete and beat so many strong teams is phenomenal and is one the best achievements I have experienced,” said Drane.

“The players pulled together as a team and although we were not able to overpower others, we realised halfway through the season that we were on the cusp of being something quite special.”

In a tense game, Filton College took a five-point lead going into half-time but Ipswich had powered into a 10-point lead by the start of the fourth.

However, their opponents clawed their way back into the game and led by three going into the closing stages before Ipswich regained the ascendancy and extended their lead to 12 points in the final moments.

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“We won our regional division without Joel, and that was pretty special, so when the buzzer went against Filton, all the players ran over and celebrated with him,” added Drane

“I said to the players after the game that this was for him. He is a character that you can’t help but like.”

Keeble will be an interested spectator again in Telford when Ipswich take on Noel Baker, who are essentially the feeder team for the English Basketball League Divisionm One side, Derby Trailblazers.

“It is going to be London, Derby, Manchester and little old Ipswich,” said Drane.

“We might be going in as underdogs but you could argue that we have a more experienced group of players than those we are going to be coming up against.

“I have international experience as a coach and some of our players have been involved in the international set-up. A lot of our players also play senior basketball for the Ipswich Tomcats against tough, seasoned veterans.

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