Ipswich's 'best' bond key to state league victory
BASKETBALL: Having just completed her most successful state league preliminary season, Ipswich Force captain Bree Farley was delighted what her team accomplished.
"It's four from four (finals), which I'm really happy about,'' she said, reflecting on Ipswich's latest 16 win record this year, the same as competition leaders Townsville.
"It's definitely the best season that I've been a part of with Ipswich.
"Not to drop any away games is pretty amazing. And to only have two losses throughout the whole season, especially when the competition has been so competitive, we're pretty proud of the season that we've had.''
However, heading into Saturday night's do-or-die quarter-final at Llewellyn Stadium at Booval, second-placed Force face their biggest test.
With only six regular state league players available, Farley said the Ipswich team has a tough assignment against seventh-placed Mackay (nine wins and nine losses).
"We've known that (a player shortage) was going to happen,'' she said, preparing for more court time along with Amanda Johnson, Gintare Mazionyte, Georgia Williams, Rachel Mate and Meg Essex.
"It's one of those challenges that you come up against.
"I'm trying not to think about it too much because you just play your game like any other time . . . because you don't want to have to rely of other people anyway.
"We just have to look forward now and be ready to play.
"We are very comfortable playing together and we know that we have each other's back and show up for each other.''
It's that closeknit bond this year's Force senior players have built that has lifted them to their best Queensland Basketball League pre-finals finish.
But while Force knew key back-up players like Kate Head and Catherine Macgregor would miss the finals, Farley said other sides could be in similar situations.
"All the teams in the finals this year are super talented and really competitive,'' she said.
"But a lot of other teams are in the same boat. Each team might have different players in and out than what they've had throughout the season.
"Any of the top eight really could win the first round (of finals).
"We just need to survive and move forward.''
Former national league player Farley said Ipswich's best strategy on Saturday night was sticking together and doing what they did in beating Mackay Meteorettes 88-63 on their home court on July 27.
"We got up on them early by about 25 in the first half,'' Farley said.
A hardworking Force player in that game was Essex, who will be in for another spirited performance before returning to the US for her college commitments.
"She was a key factor last time,'' Farley said. "She managed to just have that inside presence and take a bit of pressure off AJ (Johnson) and Gigi (Mazionyte).''
Farley expects a determined Mackay side in Ipswich.
"The last time we played them, they were a really, really good rebounding team,'' she said.
"That's something that we'll have to improve on. It's mostly down our defensive end, making sure that we secure those rebounds.''
However, the Force captain is confident her well-drilled side can answer the challenge.
"We've had a pretty consistent preparation this week,'' she said.
"You definitely look at the other team and what you can do against them to give yourself the best opportunity.
"It's pretty exciting.''
QBL women's quarter-final: Saturday (6pm) - Ipswich Force v Mackay Meteorettes at Llewellyn Stadium, Booval.
Other quarter-finals: Southern Districts v Sunshine Coast Phoenix, Townsville v North Gold Coast, South West Metro v Rockhampton.