Lapwings hold out by a point

BASKETBALL: Ipswich Bobcats 63 Stockport Lapwings 64. Ipswich Bobcats came desperately close to reaching the Division Two Championship Final but their spirited display could not prevent Stockport Lapwings triumphing at Maidenhall Sports Centre.

Ipswich Bobcats 63 Stockport Lapwings 64

IPSWICH Bobcats came desperately close to reaching the Division Two Championship Final but their spirited display could not prevent Stockport Lapwings triumphing at Maidenhall Sports Centre.

This was the third meeting between the sides in six weeks and the match was always going to be close after Stockport's one point win in the Trophy final and their 67-63 victory in the league a fortnight ago.

Bobcats entered the match in confident mood following their quarter final win at Plymouth and made a strong start when baskets from Laura Shemming, Helen Wood, Kirsty Clark and Catherine McLean fired Ipswich to an 8-0 lead with three minutes played.

Jennifer Robinson and Claudia Leitner then both scored for Lapwings as the visitors finally broke the Bobcats full court press, but another well worked inside basket from Clark and a three-pointer from Kayleigh Read restored the Ipswich advantage at 13-4.

Jo Clayden combined with Leitner to reduce the Ipswich lead to 13-9 but strong defensive rebounding by Shemming and another basket from Clark enabled Bobcats to secure a 15-9 lead at the end of the quarter.

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Leitner was again on hand to score a three-pointer at the restart, but another basket by McLean and three more lay ups by the in-form Clark extended the Ipswich lead to 26-14.

Laura Mabey was then powerless to stop Kayleigh Read as she drove to the basket, and the Ipswich guard scored the lay up and drew a foul to secure a bonus point as Bobcats went 26-14 ahead.

Another three-pointer from Leitner and a basket by the athletic Jo Clayden pulled Stockport back to 26-19, but Clark's continued inside domination over Lapwings' American centre Jennifer Robinson enabled her to score a further basket, and free throws by Read and Wood gave Ipswich their biggest lead of the match at 33-19.

Leitner's third three-pointer of the quarter then sparked a Stockport revival in which Lapwings outscored Bobcats 14-2 in a four minute spell to cut the Ipswich lead to 35-33 at the interval.

Elaine Miller's half time team talk focused on the importance of stopping Stockport's momentum, mindful that a similar comeback by Ipswich had been key in their victory over Plymouth a week earlier.

A three-pointer by McLean gave Bobcats a five point lead at the restart and the Ipswich guard was again on hand with a long range shot to take Bobcats to 40-35.

Wood then scored a sensational lay up from a cross court drive through a packed Stockport defence and two points from the free throw line by Clark kept Bobcats 44-39 ahead midway through the third quarter.

Free throws by Clayden and Leitner cut the Ipswich lead a single point, but Shemming immediately converted two points from the line after she was fouled by Clayden to keep Ipswich 46-43 in front.

Clark then committed a critical fourth foul trying to defend Robinson, and this sparked a five point Stockport streak to give the visitors their first lead of the match at 46-48 with less than three minutes of the third quarter remaining.

Unperturbed, Clark struck back with two free throws to tie the scores, and her three-point play in the final minute after being fouled by Corrine Cregut restored a narrow 55-54 Ipswich lead as the match went into the final quarter.

Stockport captain Jane Cronshaw fired her side back in front with the first basket of the final quarter, but a pair of free throws and a basket by the determined Shemming gave the advantage to Ipswich at 59-56.

Clayden then reduced the deficit to a single point before two more lay ups by Clark sealed another fine performance and secured a game high 28 points.

Ipswich appeared to be in control when they held a 63-58 lead with four minutes to play, but baskets by Clayden and Hayley Crosbie cut the lead to a single point with three minutes to play.

Clark was then called for her fifth foul which saw her leave the game to be substituted by Kirsty Banns and Bobcats knew that they would have a fight on their hands when Clayden scored again to secure a 25 point personal tally and give Lapwings a 64-63 lead with just over a minute to play.

Ipswich tried desperately to secure the winning basket and again took possession with seven seconds to play but Stockport scrambled the ball away to give Bobcats sideline possession with one second left.

The ball was passed in to Shemming but her desperate attempted shot on the buzzer rebounded to safety to give Stockport a 64-63 victory.

Bobcats can reflect positively on a transitional season, which has seen them reach the semi finals of the Championship and the final of the Women's Trophy, achievements which did not seem possible when the team suffered through many players departing for university at the end of last season.

The club has applied to join the newly-formed Women's National Conference, which, if successful, will see Bobcats again playing the top National League sides when the new season starts in the autumn.

Other play off semi final result: Birmingham Force 68 Brighton 44.

Players and scorers

Ipswich: K Clark 28, K Read 11, L Shemming 10, C McLean 9, H Wood 5, K Banns 0, K Button 0, C Dunne 0, N Field 0

Stockport: J Clayden 25, C Leitner 15, J Robinson 12, H Crosbie 8, C Cregut 2, J Cronshaw 2, J Bardsley 0, LA Mabey 0, LE Mabey 0, N Maloney 0

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