WBBL Playoff Final: Sevenoaks Suns – Nottingham Wildcats

The Sevenoaks Suns fairytale season got the ending it deserved with a dominant 70-61 win over the Nottingham Wildcats to clinch the WBBL Playoff title, as the Nottingham outfit wonder what more they could do to win a WBBL playoff championship. The Suns were well worth their victory, locking down the Wildcats in the second half as they were able to make shots seemingly at will.

The WBBL League champions Nottingham Wildcats entered the final hoping it would be third time lucky as they have fallen at this hurdle in the last two finals. The Sevenoaks Suns entered their first WBBL playoff final after finishing third in the league and having won the WBBL Trophy earlier in the season in just their third season at this level.

The first quarter was comfortably won by the Wildcats lead by 7 points from league MVP Ashley Harris, who the Suns struggled to contain in the first 10 minutes of play. The quarter was exciting with back and forth basketball, with the Suns being lead by the scoring of Ta’Yani Clark who picked up 7 points as she and Catherine Carr tried to set the pace for the Suns.

The second quarter was more even with the sides trading points as the Suns looked to narrow the gap which the Wildcats had pushed to 12 points early in the period. The Suns managed to keep Harris quiet in the period, but that merely allowed Joana Ferreira to take over for the Wildcats offence, with her ability on fast breaks to create inside scoring she was close to unguardable finishing the half with 11 points, with 2 threes. There was last second drama as Siobhan Prior, who had an excellent half, drained a buzzer beater 3 point shot to give the Wildcats a 6 point lead going into the half, just as the Suns looked like they’d finish the half tying the game up.

The Suns continued the third just as they’d played the final minutes of the first half with a 6-0 scoring run to tie the game, from an and-one free throw from the WBBL Young player of the year Gabby Nikitinaite. The Wildcats were in foul trouble very early as they struggled to contain the threat of Nikitinaite and Clark as they put the Suns in the bonus with 5:37 left in the quarter. The Sevenoaks forwards were able to effectively slow the play of Harris whose scoring was limited in the second and third quarters. An incredible move from Carr with dribbling behind her back and between her legs had her guard in a spin as she kicked out to Bush in the corner for a big three-point shot extend the Suns lead to 6 points, as the Wildcats were stopped time and again on the offence. The Wildcats were held to just two points in the entire quarter as the Suns took a lead into the final period of play 52-44.

The final quarter of basketball was a close and cagey affair with both sides trading baskets as they fought for the WBBL playoff title. The Wildcats chipped away at the Suns’ leads, but their task was made all the more difficult as they lost Siobhan Prior to a calf injury early in the quarter. Prior, the captain, had played an excellent game up to that point and was sorely missed by her teammates.

Ashley Harris was more like her MVP self as scored a number of important points early in the quarter and draw a big unsportsmanlike foul from Clark, but was only able to make one of the two free throws. Clark, Carr and Nikitinaite were huge for the Suns all game long and especially in the final quarter, as they combined to score valuable points that put them clear of the Wildcats. Clark forced a timeout with just 2:41 left in the game as she extended the lead to 12 points with a lovely inside move. A late three-pointer from Mendes wasn’t enough for the Wildcats as they fell to their third consecutive playoff final defeat.

The Game MVP Cat Carr finished the game with an excellent double-double with 20 points and a record 14 rebounds to cap off the WBBL Playoff final championship winning performance. Clark, who had an equally good game left to a round of applause as she fouled out with a minute to go in the game. Clark finished with 14 points.

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