There will be a new name on the WBBL Play-off trophy for the first time in five years after London Lions and Newcastle Eagles prevailed through Friday night’s semi-finals live on Sky Sports YouTube from the University of Worcester Arena.
Newcastle caused the biggest upset in WBBL Play-off history – surpassing their own achievement from last weekend – when, as seventh seed, they knocked out the league champion Sevenoaks Suns with a triple-double from Alison Gorrell leading them to a thrilling 79-72 victory.
Eagles trailed by double-figures after a 22-7 surge in the second quarter from the Suns, and were still down 46-34 early in the third. But from there, three-pointers from Gorrell and Abby Lowe sparked a 14-2 burst that tied the game up on a Rachael Bland triple – one of five from her – before Lowe gave Eagles the lead on a driving lay-up to beat the third quarter buzzer. After heroics in the quarter-final, she would finish with 20 points.
With all the momentum, Eagles then hit an early 8-0 tear in the fourth, again back-to-back threes from Bland and Lowe making it 62-56 as Newcastle finished with 50% shooting (13-26) from beyond the arc. Suns got back to within one shot, but heading into the final minute Maddy McVicar nailed another three and that basket proved to be the decisive one, while also being assisted by Gorrell to bring up her triple-double as she finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
For Newcastle, it is a chance to capture the Play-off crown for a second time as they were the last team other than Sevenoaks to win it in 2015-16, ending a run of three straight Play-off Final successes for the Suns.
Following that game, and also live on Sky Sports, London Lions came through a battle of the third and fourth seeds, beating Nottingham Wildcats 77-68 as Shanice Beckford-Norton hit 9-9 at the free-throw line on her way to 18 points, while Kennedy Leonard had a near triple-double of 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
It was a hard-fought game throughout with the teams trading blows in the first half. But the third quarter proved decisive as Lions opened with the first 10 points when a couple of steals led to scores – forcing a 20th turnover from their opponents – before Cassie Breen knocked down a triple and Chantel Charles made an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 43-31, holding Nottingham scoreless for nearly three minutes.
Wildcats got back to within one shot late in the third, but Lions ended the period the way they had started it, scoring the last nine points to lead 58-46 on Ines Goryanova’s three-pointer, and that gave them a cushion that they needed as they suffered a drought to start the fourth before Breen settled the nerves with another big three with five minutes to play.
The Play-off Final takes place at Leicester’s Morningside Arena on Sunday 16 May, again live on Sky Sports.