Suns Go Down as Riders Claim First WBBL Cup
For the first time in their history, the Leicester Riders secured the WBBL Cup after beating Sevenoaks Suns 78-67 yesterday evening in Manchester. Jessica Matthewson reports.
The highly anticipated game stoked the flames of the biggest rivalry currently found in the WBBL, accompanied by commentary from BBL icons, Siobhan Prior, Kieran Achara and Rheanne Bailey.
Riders had the game under their control within the first few minutes. No shots were missed, defence was controlled by 6’4 captain Kate Oliver and maintained by the whole team, the drive was mounting. It was up to Suns’ coach Len Busch to call an early timeout in the fifth minute to try and control the dominant team.
The outside shots still weren’t landing for Sevenoaks, but they played into the unmanageable defence of the Riders and drew out fouls resulting in more confidence in their play. The rust had officially been shaken off the slower team and they finished the first quarter 13-24, a final stylish three from player 31, Irene Garrido-Perez, providing some momentum for the second quarter.
Leicester showed their ambitions in the start of the second quarter, creating space under the basket with numerous handoffs, and allowing key player Winterburn to drive towards point-scoring opportunities. Oliver showed her credentials and versatility – a big player that can shoot outside or swiftly under the basket.
The Suns defence struggled to rotate and cover her, which she used to her advantage every time. In an exhilarating turn of events, Janice Monakana hit a trio of back-to-back threes for Sevenoaks, rousing her bench of teammates and leaving the game at a tense four-point gap at half time with 33-37 to the Riders.
Feeding off the energy from the first half, Leicester Riders scored six points taking them back to a double-digit lead. Captain of Sevenoaks Catherine Carr controlled her team and stepped up massively on defence, with Monakana still pushing offensively. But ultimately the game was decided with a 60-46 lead to Riders at the end of the third.
With a point advantage in the final quarter, Leicester began to slow down and make mistakes with their defence, allowing a surge of good play from the Suns and with only six minutes remaining the point difference was down to seven. But GB player Hannah Robb made points at key moments in the final quarter and with the trailing team in team fouls, the game was called.
The remaining 10 seconds counted down on the clock, but the celebrations of the Leicester Riders had already begun as they huddled on court, a swarm of red strips and big smiles.
Kate Oliver proved to be the Riders’ rock and was rightly award MVP with a Cup record of 18 points, 14 defensive rebounds and five assists. When speaking with Sky Sports she said, “This one means so much, it’s been such a long few months to get to this point… everyone stepped on the floor and really made a difference, we really wanted to leave it all out there, and it was a full team effort.”