London Lions completed a magical season with a 70-45 win over Sevenoaks Suns in the WBBL Playoff final at the O2 Arena.
The sweep completed, 34 wins without loss in all competitions, all while maintaining a professional approach throughout.
“It’s the end of a really long season having started in the beginning in August,” Lions coach Mark Clark said.
“We struggled a little with our offence at times but as we’ve done all year, our defence was decisive.”
London’s win was played in-front of a record crowd of 10,928, a terrific advert for women’s basketball in the UK. However, the occasion did contribute a little to their slow start.
“When we play regular league games, there’s not so much going on, so when you play in a crowd like this it takes a while to get adjusted,” said Kennedy Leonard, who finished with 13 points, seven assists and four steals, en route to Playoff finals MVP honours.
“But we’ve played in big situations before, so we kind of just turned it on.”
Lions, along with Sevenoaks, however, needed patience, pre-game as the final itself was delayed by more than 30 minutes due to the arena not being ready because of a Little Mix concert the night before.
Undeterred, Lions battled on and despite being tested for the first three periods, used a 15-0 fourth quarter blitz to put the game to bed with Leonard at the heart of that run.
Shanice Beckford-Norton led the winners with 15 points.
However, London’s road to glory was rocky, shooting just 3/20 in the first quarter, trailing 12-7.
Enter Beckford-Norton. Who scored London’s first 11 points in the second quarter to give her side an 18-14 lead to dim the Suns light and into the ascendency.
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the second, Sevenoaks were not to be outdone and responded with a 10-0 burst of their own towards the latter stages.
With the game still evenly-matched, going into the third, this season’s Player of the of Year, Jo Leedham-Warner – who had struggled in the first half – found her feet, hitting seven points in quick succession.
Sevenoaks kept it interesting after three but Lions final run, you felt was inevitable, it was just a question of when.
The first six minutes of the final quarter was that time.
“London is an extremely good, deep team,” Suns coach Len Busch said.
“For the second game running, we played a solid three quarters but we just can’t seem to play for four quarters against them.”
Two finals for the Sevenoaks Suns – London’s closest challengers throughout the season – Janice Monakana paced the Suns with 13 points in her final game before retirement.
London’s quadruple brings an end to arguably the most eagerly anticipated WBBL season since its inception in 2014.
But despite the one-sidedness of this season’s campaign, it still featured an abundance of elite talent, both homegrown and from overseas, the likes of which not seen in decades.
The Lions squad in particular included former Olympians and current Great Britain internationals, all highly skilled professionals and perfect role models that could encourage the younger female generation to take up the sport.
Make no mistake, there’s still a lot to do in order for the women’s game to flourish, especially from the marketing aspect. With the level of talent on show this season, could more have been done?
Either way, the WBBL season is now confined to the history books. London Lions came, saw and conquered.
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed