May Madness opened at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle live on Sky Sports YouTube on Saturday night, with the first two teams through to the WBBL Play-off semi-finals after Newcastle Eagles caused the biggest upset in history and the league champion Sevenoaks Suns made it safely through.
Never in a WBBL post-season had a seventh seed beaten a second seed, and Eagles came in with consecutive losses but managed to overcome Leicester Riders 79-73 as Abby Lowe (26) and Alison Gorrell (24) combined for three-quarters of their points.
Eagles were in an early hole in a first half that saw big swings, with Riders initially leading by seven before Eagles went up eight as Lowe scored seven points in an 11-2 burst in the second quarter. The teams were tied on three occasions and trading baskets in the third and it was a one-shot game heading into the final ten minutes.
Decisively, Newcastle opened the fourth with back-to-back threes from Lowe and Rachael Bland to lead 63-54 and from there they managed to hold Riders off, despite them getting back to within one shot numerous times. Initially, Maddy McVicar hit a big triple to extend the advantage, but they needed one more big score as Riders were within two inside the final minute, and it came out of a timeout on a play drawn up for Lowe.
Gorrell added eight rebounds and seven assists in a near triple-double, while McVicar had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Earlier in the night, Sevenoaks powered past Oaklands Wolves with a 76-59 victory, remaining unbeaten in the post-season for five years, 10 straight games, having lifted the Play-off trophy in each of the last three completed seasons dating back to 2016-17.
After a tight opening, the Suns blew the game open with a 14-0 surge early in the second stanza, as Irrene Garrido-Perez scored seven of her game-high 20 points in that run and they held Wolves scoreless for nearly seven minutes.
Suns scored 10 second chance points off seven offensive rebounds in the first 15 minutes, and the lead reached 34-20 as Ta’Yani Clark grabbed an offensive board and scored off a Cat Carr assist.
That margin was rarely threatened, only briefly in single-figures early in the third quarter, before it went through 20 points when Garrido-Perez and Renee Busch hit consecutive three-pointers early in the fourth.
As well as Garrido-Perez scoring 20 on 7-9 (77%) shooting, captain Cat Carr was close to a triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
On Sunday, London Lions and Nottingham Wildcats clinched a place in the WBBL Play-Off Semi-Finals on Sunday, setting up a clash between the two teams this Friday.
London Lions managed to beat the Essex Rebels by 27 points, thanks to a phenomenal display from MVP Kennedy Leonard, who put up 22 points to lead the Lions, along with a huge sixteen assists, eight rebounds and eight steals.
Stephanie Umeh provided fantastic help from the bench for the Lions, as she recorded a double-double herself in just 20 minutes of action, with 22 points and 13 rebounds from the bench. Chantel Charles and Cassie Breen also made it into double digits for the Lions, with 18 and 14 points respectively.
For the Rebels, Carla Bieg Salazar put up 22 points on the night, shooting 58% from the field, and was provided help from DeAngelique Waithe’s double-double, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Only one other Rebels starter made it into double figures, with Ashleigh Munns who scored 12, but a 33% shooting night from the field wasn’t enough to see Essex progress through May Madness.
Earlier, the Nottingham Wildcats also advanced into the Semi-Finals with a convincing 16 point victory over the Manchester Met Mystics.
Chelsey Shumpert led the way with a 26 point and seven rebound performance, but Moa Lundqvist also added perfect assistance with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Simone Costa scored 20 points on the night, and guard Tia Freeman also made it into double digits from the bench, with ten points, and two three point field goals.
Hannah Shaw led her team with 18 points and Helen Naylor secured another 14 points from the bench, whilst Georgia Jones had an all-round solid display for the Mystics, with eleven points, seven rebounds and three steals.
With both Quarter Finals now over, the line-up for the Semi-Finals – taking place LIVE on Sky Sports YouTube on Friday 7 May from 5:00pm – sees Sevenoaks Suns take on Newcastle Eagles and London Lions take on Nottingham Wildcats.