WBBL: Eagles Reach Cup Final, Suns & Hatters Remain Unbeaten

Newcastle Eagles have reached a first ever WBBL Cup Final, where they will meet London Lions at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham on Sunday 30 January 2022, after knocking out reigning champions Leicester Riders; while a busy Saturday in the WBBL Championship also saw two unbeaten records remain intact and the Play-off race heat up.

Eagles produced a dramatic late comeback to beat Riders 50-45 at Vertu Motors Arena and make a second major final in two seasons, as Jessica Eadsforth-Yates hit a clutch three-pointer and Ebony Horton led the scoring with 19 points.

Newcastle led by double-figures in a tense first half as Horton scored a three that sparked an early 9-0 run as they allowed their visitors just one field goal in nine minutes and led 21-11 on a Chloe Gaynor score midway through the second.

But they let that slip as Hannah Robb started connecting from long range and Leicester had a 14-5 push in the third period, leaving Newcastle trailing by seven heading into the final seven minutes.

From there, Eagles finished on a 14-2 surge, again allowing Leicester just one score in that spell, as Gaynor scored six before Eadsforth-Yates knocked down a corner three with the shot clock running down that gave them the lead for good at 47-45 inside the final two minutes.

Meanwhile, in the WBBL Championship, Sevenoaks Suns stay top of the table at an unbeaten 8-0 after overpowering Cardiff Met Archers 73-54 at Surrey Sports Park, with Cat Carr and Frankie Wurtz scoring 14 points each, the former adding eight assists and seven rebounds.

Suns led from tip-to-buzzer, just days after Len Busch was awarded the Molten WBBL Coach of the Month for November, after a 14-4 start in the first five minutes as Carr, Wurtz and Jamila Thompson each scored twice.

The lead was 40-21 by the half, as Renee Busch reached 10 points off the bench and hit back-to-back three-pointers in a minute, and it peaked in excess of thirty after the half time break when Suns opened the third quarter 13-2 for 53-23, as the league’s best defence continued to stifle their visitors.

Maintaining pace at the top of the table, Sheffield Hatters are also an unbeaten 7-0 after an 82-68 road win at Essex Rebels, Helen Naylor pouring in 34 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

With the teams tied after the opening ten minutes, Hatters used a big second stanza to take control of the game, hitting 12 straight points to make the score 35-25 as Naylor capped that burst with back-to-back three-pointers, and the hosts were held scoreless for three minutes.

A further nine straight points followed before the half, Ariona Gill scoring five of those off the bench, and the lead reached 44-28. Hatters had to withstand a late comeback, as Rebels were within five in the fourth, but Naylor immediately hit nine points in a row and 14 in a 16-2 response that settled the game.

In the race for the WBBL Championship Play-offs, Nottingham Wildcats leapfrogged Gloucester City Queens to occupy the final spot with a dominant 82-34 defeat of their rivals at Wildcats Arena, making it back-to-back wins for Nottingham for the first time this season in what was their best defensive performance of the campaign.

Brooklyn Pannell, who just scooped the Molten WBBL Player of the Month award for November, and is the league’s leading scorer, demonstrated her credentials once more with a game-high 24 points supported by a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds from Kennedy Nicholas.

Wildcats hit 10 points in a row to end the first quarter and start the second, Pannell hitting a pair of three-pointers in that run, to make the score 21-10 as Queens couldn’t trouble the scoreboard for six minutes.

And the game was settled when they notched a 12-0 tear midway through the second, Shaunay Edmonds scoring twice and including a Dejanae Casanova triple in another four scoreless minutes for the visitors, making the score 40-17.

Wildcats only pushed on from there, holding Queens to single figure scoring in three quarters while scoring 37 points from the 26 turnovers that they forced.

Finally, also in the race for the Play-off places, Oaklands Wolves jumped up a place and put ground between themselves and the bottom two with a key 63-57 road win at bottom-placed side Caledonia Pride as Merissa Quick posted a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.

It snapped a run of five straight defeats in the last two months, and despite Wolves establishing a 39-30 lead in the second stanza on a Daisy Porter three-pointer, the teams spent much of this game separated by no more than two shots.

And that was the case heading into the final five minutes, until Wolves held their hosts scoreless for three minutes and hit seven straight points themselves to take the game as Jocie Leavold hit a triple that made the score 63-53.

Porter led Wolves’ scoring with 17 points, hitting 4-5 (80%) from beyond the arc including a trio of threes in that decisive fourth quarter.

Manchester Met Mystics captain Georgia Jones became the second player in WBBL history to reach 2000 points, but ended up on the losing side as Sevenoaks Suns secured victory against her team on the road, while London Lions and Leicester Riders also secured important victories on Sunday.

The Lions were the first team to secure an all-important two points, as they were in control against a hard-working Nottingham Wildcats side who still took plenty of positives from the game.

Joey Leedham-Warner led the home side in points as she dropped 22 in just 24 minutes of action, alongside Cassie Breen who equaled the tally from off the bench – shooting 80% from the field.

Leading the game in rebounds was Wildcats star Kennedy Nicolas, as she grabbed 14 while also dropping 21 points to achieve the game’s only double-double.

Meanwhile in Manchester, the Suns looked in red-hot form as they breezed past difficult opponents in the Met Mystics as Renee Busch dropped 22 points off the bench going eight from 11 from the field.

Jamila Thompson was dominant on the backboards for the visitors too as she grabbed 12 points as well as dropping ten points to get the game’s only double-double.

While the milestone achieved by Jones wasn’t accompanied by the desired result, the guard did lead her team in points alongside teammate Erika Williams who also dropped 13 as well.

Finally in Leicester, the Riders were in cruise control as they swept aside the Durham Palatinates to bounce back from their defeat in the WBBL Cup yesterday to the Newcastle Eagles.

Oceana Hamilton proved to be too tough to handle, as the center managed an impressive 21-point, 17-rebound double-double to inspire her team to victory, while Riders teammate Anna Lappenkuper also was an offensive threat consistently as she contributed 17 points.

For the Palatinates, Elle Hendershot kept up her impressive record of achieving double-doubles as she scored a game-high of 24 points as well as grabbing a game-high of 16 rebounds – one of the most impressive individual performances of the weekend despite ending up on the losing team.