On Saturday Teesside beat Worcester Wolves to claim the NBL Division 3 honours and the Hatters added to their huge historical trophy haul by seeing off Manchester Mystics in the WNBL Division 2 final.
The NBL Division 2 final between Magic and Team Solent Kestrels II went to overtime with Magic taking a dramatic victory.
On Sunday, the WNBL Division 1 final between CoLA Southwark Pride and Team Solent Kestrels will get things underway before the NBL Division 1 final between Team Solent Kestrels and Hemel Storm will bring the weekend, and the 2021/22 season, to a close.
We've got a preview of all the action below, including live stats and live stream links for those wanting to follow all the action.
Tickets can still be purchased for the event using the button below, and there will be a limited number of tickets available on the door across the weekend.
Sunday’s schedule begins with the WNBL Division One Playoff final between league winners CoLA Southwark Pride and seventh seeds Team Solent Kestrels.
It’s offence v defence for the D1W crown, with Solent owning the regular-season’s most potent offence at 77.2PPG and CoLA sporting the meanest defence, giving up just 49.1PPG on average.
That lockdown mentality served the London side well as they put together a near-perfect 20-2 record, winning their first D1W league title since 2015/16.
Playoff success has eluded coach Gibbons’ team going back to 2016/17, including defeat in last year’s final to eventual winners Ipswich.
Still, CoLA have the star power to get the job done this year. In Isi Ozzy-Momodu, Pride have a Team of the Year selection, plus the Defensive Player of the Year. Gibbons himself was a landslide selection for Coach of the Year, his second award is as many years, whilst Molly Lavin, Emily O’Connell, Emilie Black and Ana-Isabel Andersson all earned votes across a variety of accolades.
Solent are a team that have blown hot and cold this season, though most importantly they have been able to come good when it mattered. Going 4-1 to end the regular season set the WNBL National Cup finalists up with a road game with second seeds Loughborough, winning 63-59 against the Riders before once again coming up trumps on the road, this time knocking off third seeds Thames Valley 74-67.
Both wins were built on impressive performances from American guard Taylor Gaffney. Dropping 24 points against Loughborough and 27 against the Cavs, both game highs, the talented guard has put the South coast club on her back this post season in a bid to win their first title since 2014/15.
Whilst no Solent player picked up an end of season honour, Krisztina Velkey-Cleeve came close to inclusion in the Team of the Year. That’s no surprise given her 13.3PPG, 9.3RPG, 4.1APG splits during the regular season.
Young star Faye Endean (15.4PPG) led the team in scoring, whilst Saffie Jarju’s 7.7RPG are a solid contribution on the glass. The forward also provided an efficient 10 point, 10 rebound double-double two weeks ago, highlighting her role for coach Lee’s team.
As is probably expected from a team that lost just twice during the season, CoLA took both their meetings with Solent this year. November’s 99-77 win on the South coast came courtesy of 24 points from Funmi Amode, with Pride also sealing the return leg 69-63 back in late February.
If Solent can unlock the CoLA defence, they will no doubt fancy their chances in a more open, offensive game. Taylor Gaffney could well be the key to that, though if Pride find a way to shut down the American it could be curtains for Solent’s dreams of a memorable playoff title.
"We are really excited for the final, we’ve worked hard to be here and want to make the most of this opportunity.
"As a young team in this league we know we need to have a mature performance and we hope to build on our strong defensive performances and continue to play for each other.
"It's been a magical season, no matter what happens we are going to carry these experiences with us for the rest of our lives."
"Coming here initially was pretty hard, to adjust at first and leaving every back home. But this team soon became my family away from family.
"The season itself has been filled with plenty of ups and downs but we always find a way to come together and get the job done.
"We’re all super excited about the final and ready to compete."
The weekend closes with a repeat of last year’s D1M Playoff final as Team Solent Kestrels take on Hemel Storm.
That game went the way of Solent, as did the 2018/19 final, meaning the Kestrels have a chance to win their third straight playoff crown this weekend.
Hemel were downed 93-62 12 months ago, largely due to an MVP contribution of 37 points from American guard Ian Smith.
The good news for Storm is that Smith is no longer with the Kestrels, instead moving back to the States to pursue a career in collegiate coaching. Unfortunately, Smith’s replacement at guard for Solent, Cole Gentry, who has been just as good in his debut NBL season.
Averaging 18.9PPG, 4.2RPG, 5.4APG and 1.9SPG, the Wright State University alum has been a key cog in Solent’s efforts to win a historic fourth-straight regular season title.
Add in the likes of Luke Busumbru (14.0PPG, 5.8RPG), former BBLer Orlan Jackman (11.3PPG, 6.4RPG), last season’s Defensive Player of the Year Andre Arissol, former playoff final MVP Travis Charles and more, this Solent roster has no weak links, a testament to their continued success.
In last year’s final, the weight of expectation was placed on then Player of the Year Greg Poleon. Needing a big game to try and push the underdogs over the line, it was a tough ask against a team that doesn’t really allow many players to enjoy dominant performances.
This year Poleon has been just as good, averaging 22.5PPG and 10.4RPG, good for a D1M fourth best in efficiency. Fortunately for the American forward, he has also been joined by former Thames Valley man Taylor Johnson.
Johnson led the league in both efficiency and points this regular season, highlighting his impact for coach Spinks’ team.
Add in the experience at guard of Bode Adeluola, now into his tenth season with the team, plus defensive prowess of captain Tayo Oyefusi, the quality at Hemel’s disposal shouldn’t be overlooked.
Road wins against Derby and Thames Valley didn’t happen by accident, showing that the #6 seeds can put together a performance to beat any team on their day.
Can they do just that and get revenge on Solent for last season’s defeat on this court, or will Solent pick up yet another piece of silverware as part of their dominance over D1M? Finding out will no doubt provide a fitting way to end this weekend’s playoff finals.
"The road to the final has been tough, you definitely noticed the difference in playoff intensity to regular season.
"We’re all happy to be heading to Manchester and competing for the championship, at the same time we know what’s at stake and are ready and excited to get out there and do whatever we can to win.
"Having fans at this final will be great. They always add to the atmosphere and both sets of fans bring the energy. Hopefully they can give us the extra help we need to take the trophy home!"
"It’s super exciting to reach the playoff final for the second time in consecutive years.
“After not reaching our full potential in the regular season, it has been great to hit the reset button and show everyone what our group is really capable of.
“This is the match up we wanted. We’re ready to rectify our loss in the finals last year. As a former Kestrel, I know how well-prepared coach Guymon will have his team, but to be honest this is more about how we prepare and turn up on the day.
“We’ve had two really close games with them this season, so this one is lining up to be an exciting one.
“Last year we had to play behind closed doors, but this year we will have the benefit of having our incredible fanbase in the building which will continue to give us the boost we need!"
For further updates across the weekend, head over to the NBL social channels on Facebook. Twitter and Instagram. Links to the platforms are available below.
06 Jul 2022