FROM tip to buzzer this was an enthralling affair as defending champions Rockets trailed by a single score for most of the game but levelled with two minutes remaining and were just two points down with 8.1 seconds on the clock and certainly in the ascendancy but one very tough foul call went against Rockets and Ipswich sealed the game from the free throw line.
Anabel Latorre scored Rockets first points before the player of the game, Rockets Sitota Gines opened her account. Jess Ford scored inside and captain Gabi Sanchez led by example by taking an early charge before Gines made a superb steal, went coast to coast and finished giving Rockets a 10-6 early advantage. Gines took a charge but four unanswered Ipswich points drew the game level for the first time at 10 each midway through the opening period.
A 7-0 Ipswich run caused Rockets Head Coach Antonio Acuna to call a time-out from which Latorre scored inside again bringing the score to 16-19 against Rockets as the quarter ended.
A second big Ipswich treble took them out to an eight point lead at 24-16 but Gines reduced the deficit and Sanchez finished a fine spoon move . Ford hit a jump shot and Gines made a three point play to see Rockets adrift by a single point at 25-26.
However another crucial Ipswich treble edged them further ahead. Rockets’ determination shone through again with Sanchez as she raced the length of the court to stop another Ipswich score quickly followed by Carmen Segura Moreno hitting a buzzer beating treble leaving Rockets 28-34 down at the interval.
The third period began with huge intensity from both finalists but neither team scoring before Latorre hit a brace of free throws. Unfortunately Ipswich hit another treble though Gines kept Rockets in touch with a fine drive and score.
Rockets upped the tempo a little and showed great tenacity with a couple of key floor hustles, a Latorre block before the outstanding Gines made a steal, went coast to coast to score as Rockets stayed in contention at 38-43 as the final stanza began.
Latorre made an excellent stop and then finished well inside but Ipswich now had a 47-40 advantage with just six minutes to go. A Segura Moreno stop and a Ford finish was quickly followed by four Gines points as Rockets got within a single point at 48-49.
The atmosphere in the packed Essex University Arena was amazing and though Rockets were knocked back with a buzzer beating Ipswich treble the courageous Rockets girls fought on levelling the game on 52 as Gines and Ford scored with less than 3 minutes remaining. Latorre made a stop but then hit 4 points before Ford made a jump shot to see the score 54-56 with just 48.8 seconds left and Rockets playing brilliantly.
However a very tough officials call saw Ipswich hit a point from the free throw line to be three up and saw two of Rockets key players fouled out and Ipswich score both free throws. Mia Thompson tried a huge treble but was fouled so went to the line. She hit all three penalty shots so Rockets were now just 57-59 adrift with 8.1 secs remaining on the clock.
Ipswich took a time-out and scored a single point but Rockets’ brave effort was about to be extinguished as the three point effort fell short and Ipswich took the cup 60-57.
This was a great advert for the very best of Under 18 Girls basketball as witnessed by the packed arena. Top scorers for Rockets were Sitota Gines with the game’s highest points total of 21 which was complemented with 14 rebounds, six steals, five assists and a block whilst Anabel Latorre also had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as Jess Ford hit 10 points.