Leicester Riders 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 evening.
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.
Riders 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 67 (Monakana 25, Garrido-Perez 15, Carr 13) Leicester Riders 78
Back to the league Championship
The Sevenoaks Suns then brushed off their 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 21 points followed her impressive showing in Friday night’s final.
Sevenoaks Suns 69 (Monakana 21, Busch 19, Carr 12) Oakland Wolves 62