Leicester Riders have won the WBBL Cup for the first time – with a fourth different name now on the trophy in its four year history – after beating Sevenoaks Suns 78-67 live on Sky Sports at the National Basketball Performance Centre, Manchester, on Friday.
These two teams share 11 of the last 14 pieces of silverware handed out in the WBBL, and both came into the game unbeaten all season so far.
It was Riders – the league’s best defence – who set the tone early as they held their opponents scoreless for the first three minutes and raced into an 11-0 lead as Kate Oliver hit five points and then dished to Holly Winterburn for a lay-up. Behind their irrepressible defence, the lead peaked at 21-4 on another Oliver triple.
But Riders had to sustain a second stanza fightback from the Suns, as Janice Monakana came from the bench to draw a charge and then hit a trio of three-pointers consecutively in a 13-1 surge that finished the half with Suns down just 37-33. Monakana broke the Cup Final record for points scored, at 25.
League-leading Leicester showed their championship credentials by responding immediately out of the halftime break, scoring the first six points of the third to make it a double-digit lead once more on a Winterburn score. And the game was ultimately decided when they finished the period with an 8-2 burst, Oliver scoring four and Sara Hinriksdottir connecting on the buzzer to make the score 60-46.
Hannah Robb scored seven of her 17 points at key times in the fourth quarter to keep Riders in front, securing their tenth straight win and dethroning the reigning WBBL Cup champions.
Both Oliver and Winterburn had their eyes on triple-doubles, with the former scoring 18 points and dragging in a Cup Final record 14 defensive rebounds, adding five assists; while the latter had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. And it was Oliver – who got Riders off to a great start and was impactful throughout – who scooped the MVP award.
Head Coach Jesper Sundberg told Sky Sports at the end of the game,
“Beating Sevenoaks is always great for us as they provide such tough competition, but you add a first ever WBBL Cup on to that and it’s special. This is really fun for us to even have been here playing.
“We knew when we had an early lead that they would make their runs and we just needed to stay calm and find a solution for it. We struggled a bit when they went with five guards, as that put us out of our normal defensive principles, but that gave us the advantage offensively.
“It’s not the kind of game we usually play, with these high numbers, but it just meant we had to do more offensively.”
Sevenoaks Suns brushed off Friday’s WBBL Cup Final defeat with a hard earned victory over the Oakland Wolves to cap off an enthralling Saturday afternoon of WBBL action, as Essex Rebels and Nottingham Wildcats racked up dominant wins away from home.
The Suns edged the Wolves in a tight affair that exploded in the fourth quarter after a tense opening, whilst the Rebels and Wildcats ran out comfortable winners in their ties against the Durham Palatinates and Manchester Met Mystics respectively.
Sevenoaks were playing only their second Championship game of the season and came up against a Wolves side who had lost all of their three opening games, however it was a tight affair as only four points separated the side in a low scoring affair.
The Wolves led by four points going into the third in a low scoring game, however the Suns burst into life in the third and fourth periods and fought off a spirited Wolves side. An enthralling final period saw the game burst into life, however the Suns edged the affair and were again led by Janice Monakana, whose 20 points followed her impressive showing in last night’s final.
The day’s action tipped off in Durham as the Palanites looked to fend off an in-form Essex Rebels side as they continued their fine start to the season.
The Rebels saw two players finish with double-doubles as Deangelique Waithe and Lucrezia Costa both racked up impressive showings as they dominated on the boards for the Rebels. Essex put in a great performance and led by as much as 26 points during the ballgame, and they picked up their third win of the Championship campaign.
Claire Paxton picked up a double-double for the Palatinates as she posted 13 points and 10 rebounds, however an impressive performance from the Rebels saw them pull away early in the game and build on that dominant start.
Not to be outdone, Nottingham Wildcats’ Jasmine Joyner picked up a huge double-double of her own, racking up an incredible 30 points to go along with 16 rebounds as she led the Wildcats to a 34-point victory over the Manchester Met Mystics.
And Cardiff Met Archers and Nottingham Wildcats both secured WBBL Championship wins in an exciting Sunday afternoon of Basketball.
Cardiff came out on top in a tight affair against Newcastle Eagles winning 79-77 at the Eagles Community Arena. The match got off to fast paced start with both sides looking to get an early advantage. Archers would lead after the first and were ahead by five at the half time break.
Eagles, however, would fight back as they looked to secure their second win of the season and by the end of third, they lead 68-65 to set up a thrilling conclusion. The momentum would swing again, this time in the favour of Archers. A late Sara Jorgensen jump shot gave Archers a one-point lead with 14 seconds to go and a Kim Kheing free throw would put the game out of sight for Newcastle.
Marlee Ball was the leading scorer for Archers with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Shannon Hatch’s double double performance of 13 points and 12 rebounds also helped the Welsh side to their third victory of the season. Eagles captain Alisson Gorrell was the host’s star player with 29 points and 9 assists, but it would not be enough as the Eagles suffered their seventh loss of the season.
In the day's other game, Nottingham Wildcats put in a dominate performance against Caledonia Pride as they comfortably came out on top winning 96-50.
Wildcats were on top from the get-go and led throughout. They raced in to a 9-point lead after the first quarter. A lead they would extend by half time as they went 19 points ahead, leading 47-28. This comfortable lead would let them play the game out and secure their fifth win of the season.
Jasmine Joyner and Chelsey Shumpert starred for the home side with 25 and 24 points respectively. For Caledonia Pride, Maud Ranger produced a double double performance of 29 points and 10 rebounds but her side would be comfortably beat as they suffered their fourth loss the season.