The Nottingham Wildcats enter Sunday’s WBBL Cup Final against the Caledonia Pride hoping to make it sixth time lucky in WBBL Finals.
Despite being the most dominant team in the history of the WBBL the Wildcats have stumbled at the final hurdle in three playoff finals, the 2015 trophy final and last year’s cup final, the inaugural edition of the competition losing to Manchester Mystics.
Caledonia Pride is in their second season at this level and is playing they’re first ever final, having been eliminated in the first round of last year’s edition.
The Wildcats have the advantage in historical meetings between the clubs, having completed a clean sweep of victories last season, but the Pride won the first clash between the sides this season. Caledonia kicked off their year with a 74-64 home win over the Wildcats, claiming their first-ever win over the Nottingham outfit in the process.
The Wildcats have had an up and down season and currently stand one place above Pride in 6th position with a 5-6 championship record, 7-6 in all competitions. Pride have struggled in the championship with a 4-8 record from their opening 12 games, but that record improves to 7-8 in all competitions.
Caledonia enter the clash on Sunday off the back of a close home loss to Team Northumbria 62-63, whilst Nottingham is coming in after a home win in the derby against Sheffield Hatters, edging it 79-74.
Nottingham is a team built around the most dominant player in the WBBL, the 6’2” forward Ashley Harris. Harris is leading the league in scoring, 24.8 and rebounding 11.2 and averages a double-double, such is her dominance in the paint. Harris has an excellent 2 point scoring percentage, .587, which also leads the league.
Harris will come up against Tricia Oakes, the 6’5” centre of the Pride who leads her team in rebounding averaging just under 10 boards per game. Pride are led in scoring by Rosanna Reynolds who averages 13.4 points per game and in steals (2) by the 5’9” guard, who also pulls down an excellent amount of rebounds for the position and gets her share of assists. Her clashes with Dnayssa Sbahi and Siobhan Prior will be must-watch basketball.
Wildcats and Pride match up well in most statistical categories, however, Nottingham has a clear advantage in points per game, scoring on average 7 points more and conceding roughly 4 fewer than their Scottish opponents. Dave Greenaway, Wildcats coach, will be hoping this disparity in scoring pans out for his players on the floor, to do so, his side needs to do something they haven’t done in a final before. Keep a consistent performance across the full forty.
The Wildcats’ route to the final saw them have a first-round bye before knocking off the top two sides in the WBBL. In the quarter-final, Nottingham hosted the Sevenoaks Suns, the side who defeated them in spectacular terms in last season’s playoff final and enacted a measure of revenge winning 67-58.
The semi-final was an all-Midlands clash with the Wildcats hosting the Leicester Riders, currently second in the WBBL, dispatching their local rivals 75-66 to book their ticket to Birmingham.
Caledonia had to play one more game to make it to the final, a round one 64-55 win on the road in Cardiff, against the MET Archers before making the trip south to take on the Manchester Mystics. Manchester is one of the best sides in the WBBL this season but Pride were able to get by them in their own gym by 10 clear points 86-76.
Pride’s semi-final was also on the road, this time away to Team Northumbria. Caledonia edged a tightly contested game 66-63 to claim their spot in the final.
Sunday’s game should be a classic, between two sides who match up well. Harris vs Oakes has the potential to be an interesting match up with the 6’5” center surely being tasked with shutting down the most dominant scorer in the WBBL.
Nottingham has had an up and down start to the season and has yet to win one of their first 5 finals. I anticipate that to change Sunday as the Midlands side finally clinch a finals victory. Harris is having an exceptionally good year and being supported by talented players such as Prior and Sbahi they should have enough to get past a good Caledonia side.