A star-studded performance from Esther Little was enough to propel Ipswich to Jnr. NBL U16 Girls National Cup success, beating GCA Haringey Angels 58-42.
Little excelled regardless of which end of the court she was on, recording a stat line of 24 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. She was supported well by her Ipswich team mates, with Ella Pearson adding 13 points. Jade Guidolin Duncan had 19 points in reply for the Angels.
The Suffolk side took the lead in the contest late in the 2nd quarter and never relinquished it from there, stretching their lead into double digits as the game progressed. Every effort by the Angels to mount a comeback didn’t result in the desired effect, leaving Ipswich to seal the win.
The game started evenly, with both teams looking to grow into the game. Haringey’s Shanice Flitton had some early success as the Angels looked to work the ball inside, but the score remained well balanced after the first quarter with the London side up 13-12.
To begin the 2nd it was Ipswich’s turn to surge ahead as consecutive baskets put them up by 3 but in keeping with the tone of the game so far, Haringey battled back with some good play from Guidolin Duncan to move back in front 17-16. From there, it was Little’s turn to take control as the talented youngster hit a 3 followed by a tough lay up to leave the game well poised going into the half, with Ipswich leading 25-20.
If the half time break was going to cool off Little’s hot form, those thoughts were put to bed very quickly as she continued to inflict damage on the Angels with every possession. A 13-0 run for Ipswich that spanned both sides of the interval was only broken by Guidolin Duncan but Haringey’s ability to get back into the game was then halted by a serious looking injury to Alecia Mansell as she went down after trying to secure a rebound. Influential guard Aaliyah Samuels-Campbell also left the game in the 3rd period and from there the Angels seemed to lose their way. Defensive breakdowns led to lay-ups from Natasha Jarvis and Ella Pearson before Little continued her MVP performance with another 3. With that basket, the Ipswich lead had reached double digits with 1:40 left in the quarter, but Haringey did fight back to reduce their deficit to 6 by the end of the period.
For all their hard work to end the previous quarter, the Angels couldn’t keep that going to begin the 4th and it was Ipswich who once again pulled away. Little continued to dominate, this time pulling the strings on offence to bounce a slick pass to Pearson to take the Suffolk side further in front. Haringey worked hard to try and get back into the game but time wasn’t on their side and Ipswich secured the win from there.
“Beating Haringey is something in itself. If we had beaten them by 2 or 3 it would have been amazing, but to win by 16 with that team performance is incredible,” said Ipswich Head Coach Hayley Rigby. “This roster has been brilliant, we had great support from the bench and anyone that went on did a great job. Ester is amazing, she transforms our team and she brings the best out of the players around her. She’s a major turning point for us.”
“Credit to Ipswich, they played well,” said Haringey Head Coach Dan Bowmaker. “They had 3 key players who had a very good game. Our balance coming in was off due to injuries, and that came out in the game as well. We didn’t play as well as we have this season, that’s our lowest point total this year, so that tells a story to.”
Main image credit - Pavel Kricka