London Lions collected the first piece of WBBL silverware in the club’s history after breezing past the Nottingham Wildcats with a 96-64 victory in Sunday’s WBBL Trophy final at the University of Worcester Arena.
Lions were dominant from tip-to-buzzer after a 13-2 start in which GB international point guard Kennedy Leonard came up with an early steal and assist before knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the opening three minutes.
The University of Colorado product finished the game hunting a triple-double with 21 points, nine assists, seven steals and six rebounds to pick up the MVP award.
- Points: Cassie Breen – 25
- Assists: Kennedy Leonard – 9
- Rebounds: Chantel Charles – 8
- Points: Chelsey Shumpert – 27
- Assists: Tia Freeman – 5
- Rebounds: Praise Egharevba – 10
Lions win WBBL Trophy
The lead went through 20 when Lions scored 13 consecutive points in the second stanza, holding Nottingham scoreless for more than three minutes to lead 47-24 as Stephanie Umeh scored six off the bench and Cassie Breen added five from the free-throw line. Breen had 12 points in the opening 15 minutes, going 10-10 at the line for a WBBL Trophy Final record.
After reeling off another run of nine straight points, with Umeh adding an ‘and-one’ play for the last score of the half, the advantage reached 30 points to establish a margin that was never threatened in the second half as Breen added another seven early points.
London’s final total on 96 points was a WBBL Trophy Final record, Breen finishing with 25, including six-for-six inside, while Umeh posted 19 and captain Shanice Beckford-Norton scored 13.
“It’s the first trophy for the organisation, which is always a big one,” said head coach Mark Clark post-game. “They are a great group of people, from when they first came in and dealt with everything that everyone is having to deal with.
“To get a piece of silverware for the organisation and the team is such a great feeling.”
MVP Leonard, who signed ahead of the campaign following a debut professional season in Germany, shot four of six from the field and three of eight from beyond the arc while making all four of her free throws in 35 minutes of action. The Colorado record holder in assists also turned provider on nine occasions, tying the WBBL Trophy Final record.
“I feel so excited, I don’t know how to explain it, I’m just so excited that we won,” she said post-game. “I wish I could have got some more, got more people involved, but a win’s a win and I’m so proud of us for the way that we handled the game and for bringing a trophy back to London.”
Coach Clark added: “It’s always good to have a coach on the floor, and Ken and I have been on the same page from day one. Her teammates appreciate her because she makes them better, and she has some great partners in Shanice (Beckford-Norton) and Cassie (Breen) – they’re all a tough ask in the backcourt.”
Suns in the hunt
Meanwhile, in the WBBL Championship, Sevenoaks Suns closed the gap on the top three, and remained unbeaten in league play at 7-0, after beating third-placed Essex Rebels 64-52.
Cat Carr scored 12 of her game-high 29 points in a second quarter that they dominated, coming back from an early deficit to pour in 32 points and lead 45-31 at the half. Carr and Ta’Yani Clark – who had a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds – combined for nearly three-quarters of the team’s points.
Finally, bottom-placed Durham Palatinates picked up a first win of the WBBL Championship season, beating fellow Play-off chasing rivals Caledonia Pride 56-63 on the road.
Durham scored the last seven points of the first half, with Goretti Hurtado Barbeito beating the buzzer, and then she added a pair of three-pointers as they scored the opening 14 points of the third quarter in an amazing 21-point surge that made the score 44-24.
Palatinates needed that cushion, as the hosts came all the way back to tie in the fourth quarter, until Jazmin Gyulai and Kara Elderkin – who finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds – made key scores to give the visitors breathing space and secure the win late on.
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