London Lions ended the season in spectacular style by lifting the WBBL play-off trophy with a 70-45 win over Sevenoaks Suns at London’s 02 Arena.
The Lions completed the domestic quadruple in front of a Women’s British Basketball League record crowd of 10,928 with an incredible atmosphere in the arena as the fans witnessed an exhilarating finale.
The showpiece event was as also enjoyed by many more watching live on Sky Sports.
Kennedy Leonard was named MVP after she put in an exceptional display on the big stage. The Lions star led her side with a dominant display out on the court, scoring 13 points, making seven assists and contributing five assists in a superb showing.
The Suns came flying out of the blocks in the opening quarter of the match and after both sides traded early baskets, they gained the early ascendency with a five-point lead after the opening ten minutes. But the Lions roared back in the second quarter immediately overturning the deficit and edging clear of the opponents with an 11-point lead midway through the quarter.
But Sevenoaks fought back to make it a five-point game as the sides headed in for the half time break in what was a enthralling opening 20 minutes of action. Shanice Beckford-Norton and Frankie Wurtz were the stars of the show in the first half, leading the scoring for their teams, respectively.
It would be Beckford-Norton who would be the happier of the two in the third quarter as her side dominated the opening exchanges further increasing their lead. The Lions began to show their quality at both ends of the court and defensively in particular they really highlighted why they have been the team to beat in the WBBL this season.
However, the Suns would not give in and a gritty display towards the end of the quarter ensured they stayed in touch to give themselves hope as the game entered the crucial final quarter. The Lions ensured they completed the quadruple with a professional and assured final quarter performance.
Their relentless pressure told as their domination began to reflect on the score line, with the Suns opportunities to work their way back into the match severely restricted by the Lions strong defensive qualities. There was no doubting that the 10,928 inside The 02 Arena were treated to an entertaining spectacle as the WBBL season came to a close in historic fashion.
Winning Head Coach, Mark Clark, was delighted with their side’s performance at London’s 02 Arena and was thrilled to finish the season in style. He said: “It’s the end of a really long season, the beginning of the game was difficult, we struggled a little bit offensively in the first quarter. The thing that sets ourselves apart is everybody holds everyone to account and accountability is a very key word for us.
“We spent a lot of time without the basketball, our team really didn’t give them room to get off shots and we kept them deep on the shot clock, in the end that was really decisive for us this afternoon. The feeling for me is satisfaction, you set your stall out at the start of the season to be successful not just in the WBBL but trying to make sure a team from the WBBL can really compete in Europe, so my feeling right now is a real feeling of satisfaction.”
MVP Kennedy Leonard said:
“Our first half was slow, but we know we’re a good third quarter team, we wanted to end our season playing the way we know we can and we wanted to show ourselves and everyone here what we’re capable of. This year you have to take some of yourself away to make the team better as a whole, as long as I do my role to help the team do what it needs to do, then that’s what’s important to me.”
On what was another landmark day in the WBBL’s history and with a league record breaking crowd in attendance at The 02 Arena, Jim Saker said:
“What an outstanding way for the WBBL season to come to a close, with a brilliant match between two outstanding sides who can be proud of their achievements this season. I want to pass on my congratulations to London Lions for lifting the play-off trophy this afternoon. Most importantly, it is great to see the WBBL continue to inspire fans up and down the country with an amazing attendance here to cheer on both sides at the 02 Arena, London.
“I’d like to personally thank all of our clubs for their efforts on and off the court this year, it has been an excellent season for the development of the WBBL. We’re already looking forward to seeing what the 22/23 season brings, but I am sure the league is only going to build on the great success it has had following a landmark year for the sport.”