Sevenoaks Suns marked the close of the fifth Women’s British Basketball (WBBL) season with victory in the benecos Play-Off Final at The O2 in London, beating Leicester Riders 60-55 in another nail-biting game for the 9,000 fans present.
Sevenoaks made the history books yet again this season, when they became the first team in the modern-era to win three back-to-back Play-Off trophies. And it wasn’t just the club either, this was a triple-occasion for several members including Head Coach Len Busch, team Captain Cat Carr, Julia Koppl, Renee Busch and Hannah Miller. Ta’Yani Clark hit four wins on the bounce after winning the competition with Team Northumbria in 2016.
The result mirrors last year’s end of season finale and sees the reigning WBBL Championship winners improve their major finals record against the Riders to three wins and one loss.
Sevenoaks travelled to The O2 as firm favourites having won each of their 22 Championship games this season, including the two against Leicester. However, Leicester had beaten Suns earlier in March in the WBBL Trophy Semi-Final, so they would never consider themselves out of the running for this game.
Sevenoaks started the game bright enough stretching out a nine-point lead in the opening two minutes, but Leicester were not going to just roll over for them and duly came back at them go in at the half 33 points to 29.
Down by 10 points early in the third quarter, the Suns then turned the game on its head with a 13-0 run to take the lead. Incredibly, Sevenoaks held the Riders scoreless for over four minutes during that run. After a back and forth final quarter, the Suns made yet another decisive run – scoring seven straight points – with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock.
Scorers for Suns were: Janice Monakana (23), Cat Carr (13), Tayani Clark (9), Jess Good (7), Judit Fritz (4) and Julia Koppl (4).
In a game of fine margins, the Suns second unit were able to outscore the Riders bench by 16 points – thanks entirely to the output of Monakana.
Monakana proved the difference between the two sides: netting a game-high 23 points off the bench. Clark also caught the eye for the victors with nine points, 16 rebounds and five assists. Carr also showed her class, netting the majority of her 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Suns Head Coach Len Busch reacted after the match saying: “I am really really proud of what these girls, athletes, have achieved today. I was mostly proud of how, despite struggling, we stuck at it and came through in the fourth quarter.
“The match could have gone anyway at any moment, but I think that once we got our nose in front in the fourth, I could feel the energy left in the team.”
Four time winner Clark added: “Every time we play them [Leicester] it’s a battle, and they definitely came to play today, but we stuck to the core of what we do. Cat is our engine, she gets us going, she’s there in all the big moments. Even if Cat’s not having a good game, she’s still there, she’s still talking, and it’s those collective efforts from all of us that make the big moments”.
Team GB Monakana named Play-Off Final MVP
Whilst Sevenoaks closed out the fifth WBBL season in style with their victory at The O2, forward Janice Monakana was named MVP for the game. She led the way with 23 points in just 20 minutes of court time. She shot 8/13 from the field and also added three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
The Team GB star produced a game defining display, provng the difference between the two sides, as Monakana’s output off the bench was 16 points more than the entire second unit of the Riders managed.
“It’s a special feeling – especially with all the ups and downs we’ve had as a team throughout the year,” reflected Monakana after the buzzer. It wasn’t an easy game and it makes it that more special. All year round has been good for me, I knew the Suns’ history and how they develop the programme so be able to add to that has been really nice.
“I’ve just kept trying to contribute for the team, the same as always and I had a lot of confidence.”