historic first season for ‘The Invincibles’
Invincible. Historic. Talented. Winners. The Ipswich basketball women’s team have proved all these words apply in their first season together as they wrapped it up with another trophy.
The WNBL Division Two North side — the only national-league standard side in Suffolk — have won the national play-offs finals, to become the best division two side in the country in their last game of the season.
And four of the players are from Bury St Edmunds — Harriet Welham, who has also been crowned Division Two’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), 16-year-old talent Esther Little, captain Amy Linton and Maya Price.
They beat Derbyshire Gems 96-55 in the final held at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester on Saturday.
They have also secured promotion to Division One and won the National Cup on their way to an ‘incredible’ treble-winning season.
And they have done it by remaining unbeaten in all competitions this season, the club’s first back in competition after several attempts in the last 20 years to establish a regular women’s team.
And, after the youth teams took off almost a decade ago, the club has started to produce an abundance of young and talented women — of the 11 players in the play-off’s squad last weekend, eight have been involved in various stages of the Team GB youth set-up. Head coach Nick Drane said: “This is the best team I’ve ever coached and I’ve been doing this full time for 17 years.
“They’re all girls that have come through our system and we’ve taught how to play.”
Welham, 21, said it was ‘great for the county’ to have a basketball team achieving history.
“To go unbeaten in our first season is just brilliant,” said Welham, who was also named MVP in the play-off final.
“We feel we’re representing our county and we’re very proud.
“It’s wonderful to be given awards like the MVP but, for me, it’s about the team’s achievement rather than my individual ones.”
Little, meanwhile, said she had ‘loved’ the challenges over the season and bear-pit atmosphere of the big games.
The Ixworth-based player said: “It’s an incredible feeling, I’ve loved the support and the atmosphere of the big games and the feeling of winning.
“In 20 years time I think we will all still know each other because, although we have even more to give, what we have achieved this year is special. We’ve made history.”
Little, a pupil at Thurston Community College, will hope to win one more title in this weekend’s U16 play-off finals, also at the national centre in Manchester.
The U16s emulated the senior women’s achievements with their own National Cup success, and will hope to again match their senior counterparts with play-off success this weekend.