Sevenoaks Suns crowned WBBL league champions for third time

Sevenoaks Suns were crowned WBBL Champions for a third time on Sunday, despite an incredible Leicester Riders comeback ending their undefeated record in a thrilling encounter between the league frontrunners.

The Riders ran out 64-54 winners after overturning an 18-point half-time deficit, leaving them just shy of the 12-point margin they required to carry the title race into the final day of the season.

Sevenoaks entered the decisive contest in the driving seat having beaten the Riders 63-51 on Wednesday, and looked in cruise control after the opening two quarters before being held to just 18 points in the second half as Leicester turned the game on its head.

WBBL Championship Results

First 2⃣ May Madness games confirmed!

QF: @NottmWildcats (4th) v @mcrmystics_WBBL (5th)
Sunday 2 May 2021, 3:[email protected]

QF: @London_Lions (3rd) v @EssexRebels (6th)
Sunday 2 May 2021, 5:[email protected]

Both games LIVE & FREE on @SkySports YouTube!#BritishBasketball pic.twitter.com/9GiUmVLFbX

Azania Stewart posted a monster double-double of 10 points and 18 rebounds for the Riders, while Catherine Carr led the champions with 21 points.

“It feels great,” said Suns head coach Len Busch. “I would have liked to finish with a win, but sometimes you don’t get what you want.

“I am so proud of this group for their ability to stay focused on the mission of getting better each time out and being ready to play. There are so many ways for a team to slip up in this league. We respect all the teams and try our best to be ready to compete.”

Busch said the leadership of his veteran players were an important factor in the team’s success, while also heaping praise on the rest of his team.

“The leadership of our veteran players, especially Cat Carr and Ta’Yani Clark was certainly an important factor,” Busch added. “Also the play of Lavinia Da Silva, especially with the departure of Julia Koppl in early February, has been critical. Lavinia has been fantastic. Janice Monakana, Renee Busch and Irene Garrido-Pérez have all continued to make important contributions. All the other players who may not have played a lot of minutes, were important in pushing their teammates in practice so we would be ready to play.”

An incredible showcase for Women's Basketball! #BritishBasketball pic.twitter.com/0LOsrPUlaN

Reflecting on the challenges of the season during the current pandemic, Busch noted that it had been a very “trying” time for the club but they were going to enjoy every day they had together as a team.

“Things finally settled down and the team started to play games and improve each time out,” said Busch. “We decided as a group to enjoy every day together and take it one practice, one game at a time. Then getting through so many games in the last 30 days has been a satisfying achievement.”

Now having retained the league title, the Suns’ attention will no doubt turn to the WBBL Playoffs, which they also hope to retain as current holders.

And as far as carrying lessons from the Championship season into the postseason goes, Busch added: “Take one game at a time and enjoy every step. Learn from today and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Mystics book their place

Elsewhere in the league, Manchester Mystics managed to secure fifth place with an away victory over Newcastle Eagles, setting up a clash with Nottingham Wildcats in the playoff quarter-finals.

A strong end to the first half culminated in a 9-0 run for the Mystics as they built a comfortable lead going into the break.

Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee led all scorers with 23 points as the Mystics looked to put the game out of sight in the third quarter, holding the Eagles to only 10 points in the period as they secured that fifth seed in style.

🚨Full time in Nottingham and @DU_Palatinates come away with the 69-58 victory over @NottmWildcats!

📊 https://t.co/Fl1vmGTAy5#BritishBasketball pic.twitter.com/3LM11XNaGz

Durham Palatinates picked up their fourth win of the season over fourth-place Nottingham Wildcats in a closely fought affair. The Wildcats were leading by a point going into the final quarter, however the Palatinates erupted in the final 10 minutes, outscoring the Wildcats 21 points to nine.

Goretti Hurtado Barbeito posted 19 points and eight rebounds for the Palatinates, while Chelsey Shumpert led the Wildcats with 12 points as she racked up her 1000th WBBL point.

Having already captured the eighth and final playoff spot, Oaklands Wolves came out on top against Caledonia Pride, bringing them level on points with Newcastle going into the final day of the WBBL season. Amari Carter led the way for the Wolves with 21 points as Oaklands picked up the pace in the second half after being held to only 11 points in the second quarter.

Great win for Essex Rebels – here we come May Madness! pic.twitter.com/LNxg9POtGZ

Essex Rebels, meanwhile, wrapped up their regular season with a convincing 82-53 win over Cardiff Met Archers as they snapped an eight-game losing run to carry some momentum into May Madness, where they will face London Lions.

Leading by 10 points at the break, the Rebels turned the screw on the Archers and held them to just 21 points in the second half. Andrea Kohlhaas and Deangelique Waithe posted key double-doubles for Essex, with the former delivering a game-high 22 points to go with 11 rebounds.

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