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Copleston High School 55 – 50 City of London Academy

Copleston moved to 5-1 in the WEABL South Conference, with a scrappy win against last year’s national runners up, City of London Academy.

With both teams in the midst of an injury crisis, with key starters missing, this game was always going to be an interesting affair, with neither roster looking as formidable as their respective coaches will be hoping six weeks out from the start of the playoffs. GB stars Isi Ozzy-Momodu and Ameilia Sandie were missing for CoLA while Copleston were without recent WEABL Player of the Week winner Susanhah Rafiu. However, the Suffolk side were able to welcome back GB duo Esther Little and Becky Harwood-Bellis. That being said, the Ipswich outfit were again only able to suit up six healthy players.

These two teams have developed the best version of what a competitive rivalry can look like over the past two seasons, having had several high level, tense games – in the most mutually respectful and sporting manor. Last season, CoLA won both games by the tightest of margins, with an OT win in London, and a one point win in Ipswich.

This season, Ipswich have reversed their fortunes and pulled off wins both at home and on the road. CoLA held a slender lead after the first period, with Simona Henshaw and Mia-Jaye Sarkodee-Adoo doing damage, while for Copleston, Ella Pearson, Esther Little and Cameron Taylor-Willis all put points on the board early.

CoLA finished the period up 13-11, a lead Copleston would turn on its head in the second period. With both teams finding baskets hard to come by, Ipswich took a 24-21 lead into half time.

The third quarter was where Ipswich played their best basketball. Charlotte Redhead got it going for Copleston, while Little and Taylor-Willis battled against the powerful ‘bigs’ from CoLA inside. Copleston managed to extend their lead, taking a 44-34 lead into the game’s final stanza.

Copleston again put their put to the floor to start the fourth period, extending their lead to 14, with some good defence leading some fast break points for Ella Pearson, but CoLA again wouldn’t go away. Again it was the vastly improved Simona Henshaw and Sakodee-Adoo connecting from CoLA, who’ sharp perimeter shooting forced the game back into single digits. The two teams traded three-pointers in the closing moments as Copleston held on for a vital 55-50 win.

Copleston were led by eighteen points from Ella Pearson, helped by fourteen and eight from Cameron Taylor-Willis. Playing her first game of the season, Esther Little recorded ten points, seventeen rebounds, ten assists, five blocks and three steals, to give the team a much needed boost. CoLA got a strong contribution from Sarkodee-Adoo and Simona Henshaw, who had fifteen and thirteen respectfully.

“This is a good win, but we need to be much better. It’s going to take a few games to get used to having Esther back, she is so influential, but the girls have already proven we have a lot of different players that can help us be a top level team in the WEABL, said Copleston coach Nick Drane.

“We are not taking anything for granted, I have said it before, CoLA have been consistently one of the best junior women’s programme’s in recent years, so to win both games against them in the WEABL is something we need to realise is pretty significant.

“When they get Amelia and Isi back, they will be a very different proposition and nobody will want to face them in the playoffs.”

Copleston are on the road to Barking Abbey next week as they aim to secure a high playoff seed. CoLA are away to Oaklands.