WBBL: Lions win to go top of the standings, Eagles and Rebels also pick up victories at home

The BA London Lions moved to the top of the standings this afternoon in the WBBL Championship thanks to a hard-fought victory against the Durham Palatinates, while the Essex Rebels edged out the Oaklands Wolves and the Newcastle Eagles won comfortably against the Nottingham Wildcats.

The Rebels and the Wolves were the first teams to tip-off and they were neck-and-neck all the way through the game in what was like a chess match where both teams seemed to had an answer for each and every move – but ultimately DeAngelique Waithe and Carla Bieg Salazar managed to hold their nerves under pressure and convert their free-throws to come from behind and win the game with nine seconds left.

Waithe and Bieg Salazar scored a combined 32 points for the Rebels, but it was Lucrezia Costa’s enormous 15 points, 19 rebounds double-double defensive masterclass of a performance that really caught the eye, while Ashleigh Munns made five steals, grabbed six rebounds and added 11 points – not missing a minute of action.

Amari Carter was the best performer on the Wolves team, scoring 30 points, while Greeta Uprus also put in a double-double performance for her team, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, a total for the visitors only topped by forward Lauren Milligan who contributed 12 rebounds.

The Eagles were the next team to get a victory in the afternoon, after enjoying a dominant second half where they outscored the Wildcats by 22 points, despite trailing to the visitors by six points at half-time.

The home side were far more efficient, scoring 41% of their attempts compared to the Wildcats’ 28%, and that helped the Eagles forward Alison Gornell on her way to a giant double-double performance, in which she dropped 29 points and 11 rebounds, while her teammate Abigail Lowe also joined her in the 20+ club, scoring 21 points.

Jasmine Joyner also joined Gornell in getting a double-double, after putting up 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats with a 50% field goal percentage, while Chelsey Shumpert and Siobhan Prior were the only other Wildcats to reach double figures for scoring, contributing 16 and 13 points respectively.

The Lions closed out the day with what looked like on paper a comfortable victory of their own, but the reality was there were moments mid-way through the final quarter where the Palatinates looked like they were clawing their way back – but ten points from Kennedy Leonard in the final five minutes of the game made sure the home side would go top of the table.

Leonard came agonisingly close to a triple-double, putting up 20 points, nine rebounds and an incredible 16 assists in what was one of the performances of the season, while Cassie Breen contributed 22 points for the Lions and Shanice Beckford-Norton and Stephanie Umeh both also reached double-digits for scoring, adding 11 and 10 respectively.

Claire Paxton was one of the sparks for the Palatinates who are in search of their first win of the season, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in another brilliant double-double performance, while Kara Elderkin also impressed, dropping 21 points as she went 61% from the field.

BA London Lions are also through to the WBBL Trophy Final after beating Leicester Riders 73-58 on the road on Saturday, ending Riders’ three year reign as WBBL Trophy champions.

Lions came into the game on form, with Head Coach Mark Clark having picked up Molten WBBL Coach of the Month for February, and this was an eighth straight win behind a game-high 18 points from Cassie Breen, supported by a big non-points double-double of 15 assists and 11 rebounds for Kennedy Leonard.

And they showed their intentions from the outset, racing into a 12-4 lead with five different players scoring; Chantel Charles doing good work on the inside before Breen scored four more in another 8-2 push as they went up 20-8.

Riders got to within one shot in the second, until a 9-2 response extended the lead back to double-figures. And the tie was settled when Lions opened the third period with a 13-2 surge as Breen added seven to her total and Stephanie Umeh scored consecutively among her 16 points off the bench, making the lead an insurmountable 54-34.

Lions now await the winner of Nottingham Wildcats and Manchester Met Mystics in the final, which will be their second major final in the WBBL having been runners-up in this competition in 2016.

In the WBBL Championship on Saturday afternoon, Sevenoaks Suns remained unbeaten at 3-0 after over-powering Manchester Met Mystics 85-59 at home, leapfrogging their opponents in the table in the process. Ta’Yani Clark put in an impressive all-round display, with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Suns got off to a fast start and led 18-8 after scoring 14 straight points, sparked by a Cat Carr triple and including a pair of threes from Irene Garrido-Perez, and they led from that point and throughout.

Mystics got back to within one shot in the third quarter, but Janice Monakana started a run of 16 straight in which Carr added six more on her way to a game high 18 points, and the score was 60-40 midway through the period on a Clark three.

The game was settled when Suns held their visitors scoreless for four minutes to open the fourth period, condemning Mystics to a first defeat in five games in all competitions.

Finally, Cardiff Met Archers improved to 3-3, and a share of sixth place, after beating Caledonia Pride – who started the day just one spot below them – by 85-72 in South Wales, snapping a run of three straight defeats in a first home win since mid-December.

After a close but high-scoring start, Archers opened the second stanza with an 18-6 tear over six minutes in a balanced scoring run that involved six different players, Marlee Ball scoring five to make the score 47-37.

Ball had eight points in a period that Archers won 25-12, proving decisive as after conceding 31 points in the opening quarter they allowed their visitors just 24 over the next two quarters, as Pride slipped to a fifth defeat in six games.

And on Friday, Essex Rebels overcame a spirited Leicester Riders 82-76 in an exciting match in the WBBL Championship.

It was Riders that had the brighter start as they raced in to a five-point led after the first quarter. They continued into the second as they went into the break leading by seven points with the score at 36-29 in Riders favour.

Essex, however, came out a different side after the break and had an excellent 32-point third quarter to lead Riders 61-55 going into the last. Rebels held on and played out a tight last quarter to secure the win.

For the hosts, Deangelique Waithe led the scoring charts with a massive double double performance of 27 points and 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, for Riders, Holly Winterburn was the star performer with 16 points and 7 rebounds but it was not enough for her side as Rebels came out on top.