Revenge on the cards for Bobcats

BASKETBALL: Plymouth Racers 70 Ipswich Bobcats 81. Ipswich Bobcats progressed to the National League Division Two play off semi finals with a superb 81-70 victory over Plymouth Racers when they made the long trip to Devon on Saturday.

Ipswich Bobcats progressed to the National League Division Two play off semi finals with a superb 81-70 victory over Plymouth Racers when they made the long trip to Devon on Saturday. Plymouth had reached the play offs by winning Division Two South, and started as strong favourites over an Ipswich side that had finished fourth in the Northern section.

In fact, complacency may well have contributed to Plymouth's downfall, and their lacklustre warm up and over confident attitude paid little respect to Bobcats, who are bidding for a place in the newly formed Women's National Conference next season.

The first quarter was keenly contested and outside shots from Kayleigh Read were backed up with three baskets from Kirsty Clark, who made light of playing in an unaccustomed inside role against the much taller Karen Garside. Catherine McLean stole the ball and secured two early rebounds to help Ipswich take a 10-7 lead after seven minutes and Bobcats maintained their three point advantage when baskets from Laura Shemming and Helen Wood gave Ipswich to 14-11 at the end of the quarter.

Plymouth showed renewed determination at the restart when Bobcats found their basket being bombarded with three-point shots. Julie Pinch hit three long range efforts in a six minute spell and was ably backed with a three-pointer by Nicky Jones as Plymouth raced to a 29-16 lead.

A second foul by the influential Becky Lear gave Bobcats some hope when Racers coach Leigh Robinson decided to rest his England star. He surprisingly substituted Garside at the same time, giving Bobcats a lifeline that not only saw them reduce the deficit but actually restore their lead by half time.

Ipswich coach Elaine Miller introduced Charlotte Dunne to inject some pace into the Bobcats fast break and this had immediate effect as Shemming, Wood, Dunne and Clark combined at will to add 16 unanswered points to take a 32-29 interval lead.

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Clearly inspired by their comeback, Bobcats piled on the pressure at the restart and two well worked inside baskets by Clark extended their lead to 36-29. Shemming and Dunne then both scored off drives to the basket to complete a 24 point streak by Bobcats, which saw them recover from 16-29 down to take an emphatic 40-29 lead.

Lear finally ended Racers' barren spell and yet another three-pointer by the reliable Pinch gave Plymouth some hope as they recovered to 34-40, but they could not match Dunne's pace and the Ipswich guard reached double figures with an accurate mid range effort.

Two free throws by Shemming restored the ten point advantage at 44-34 midway through the quarter, but two more baskets from Lear sparked a Racers revival, which saw Plymouth recover to 41-46 with two minutes of the quarter to play. Shemming then scored again off a strong inside move and Ipswich closed the quarter strongly with two three-pointers from Kayleigh Read to lead 54-44.

Pinch started the final quarter with her fifth three-pointer of the match, but Read responded with her third three-pointer to score 9 of her 17 point tally in a critical two minute spell. Garside, the normally free scoring Plymouth captain, then scored one of only three baskets to reduce the Ipswich lead to 57-49, but Shemming and Clark continue to dominate as the match opened out into a high scoring final quarter.

Clark's fifth minute basket sealed a 24 point personal tally, exceeding even her season's best 21 points at Stockport a week earlier, and Dunne secured her own 12 point personal best for the senior team when she scored a sensational lay up despite being fouled by Rebecca Brindley.

Plymouth failed to make any real inroad to the Ipswich lead and trailed 62-70 with just over two minutes remaining. Their final chance disappeared when Lear fouled out after blocking Wood, who scored one of the resultant free throws before firing in a blistering assist to Shemming's back door move as Bobcats edged nearer to the semi finals with a 73-62 lead.

Wood was again on hand to convert two free throws as Plymouth resorted to fouling tactics to try to regain early possession, and although five late points by Brindley narrowed the gap to 70-77, a fast break basket by Wood and two final free throws by Read secured a hard fought and richly deserved 81-70 Bobcats victory.

The win was even more remarkable in that Bobcats used only six players, and Coach Miller was quick to recognise the contribution from the bench of Kayleigh Button, Natalie Field and Lauren Lindsay, who all made the long trip without any court time. Their vocal contribution and availability as substitutes with no less than four Ipswich players ending the match on four fouls went a long way to secure one of Bobcats best wins of the season.

The victory over one of the top seeded sides gives Bobcats home advantage in the next round of the play offs, and they have the chance to avenge recent defeats against Stockport Lapwings when they again face the Cheshire side in the semi finals. The match will be played at Maidenhall Sports Centre on Saturday, 4th May and tips off at the earlier than usual time of 6.00 p.m.

Ipswich Bobcats players and scorers:

K Clark 24, L Shemming 19, K Read 17, C Dunne 12, H Wood 9, C McLean 0, K Button 0,

N Field 0, Lindsay 0,

Plymouth Racers players and scorers:

R Lear 21, J Pinch 19, S Jones 9, R Brindley 7, K Garside 6, N Jones 6, C Johns 2,

G Cole 0, A Jones 0, K Little 0.