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National glory in sight for Ipswich under-16s

England star Esther Little led Ipswich with 26 points in their quarter-final win against Surrey Goldhawks.

England star Esther Little led Ipswich with 26 points in their quarter-final win against Surrey Goldhawks.

Archant

A special group of girls are on the verge of glory.

Head coach Amy LintonHead coach Amy Linton

Ipswich Basketball Club’s under-16, led by coach Amy Linton, have reached the National Final Four in Manchester and will face West Herts Warriors on Saturday, for a place in Sunday’s final.

It’s the first time in 20 years that Ipswich have had a junior girls team qualify for the four-team shoot-out, the Copleston-based set for a clash against Haringey or Sheffield, should they reach the final.

Coach Linton said: “At the beginning of the season, had someone said we would have made the Final Four I would not have believed them.

“We have some very good players and since Christmas they have just come together as a team.

“All of them work hard in games and every training session and lay everything on the line.”

Ipswich secured their place after a stunning 74-70 victory over Surrey Goldhawks in the quarter-final, thanks in no small part to 26 points from England international Esther Little and plenty of points from team-mates, Ella Pearson, Cameron Taylor-Willis and Susannah Rafiu.

“Since Christmas we have been playing the top teams in the country and that always spurs us on to up our standards,” Linton explained.

“I did not realise that Ipswich had not sent a girls team to the Final Fours for 20 years until recently and having come through the junior ranks myself, we always made the quarter-finals but never the last four.

“It’s quite an achievement and shows what you can do with a club in a relatively small area.”

While Ipswich are receiving the plaudits for making the Final Four, there is confidence within the ranks that they can go two steps further and be the last team standing in Manchester.

“We beat West Herts home and away so we are feeling quite confident, but we know they will bring their A-game and we can’t afford to be complacent,” Linton said.

“We have watched their game tapes and have prepared as much as we can.

“In terms of the other teams, we played Haringey at home just after Christmas and lost by about 10, which isn’t the biggest margin. When we played Sheffield, we lost in overtime by two.”

She added: “I am not sure I would be able to put into words what winning would feel like.

“I would be amazing, but I am already proud of the 12 to 14 players in the squad.”

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