Leicester Riders Win a First Ever WBBL Cup

WBBL Cup Final
Sevenoaks Suns 67-78 Leicester Riders (13-24, 33-37, 46-60)

(Suns – Monakana 25, Garrido-Perez 15, Carr 13; Riders – Oliver 18, Robb 17, Winterburn 16)

Leicester Riders have won the WBBL Cup for the first time – with a fourth different name now on the trophy in its four year history – after beating Sevenoaks Suns 78-67 live on Sky Sports at the National Basketball Performance Centre, Manchester.

These two teams share 11 of the last 14 pieces of silverware handed out in the WBBL, and both came into the game unbeaten all season so far.

It was Riders – the league’s best defence – who set the tone early as they held their opponents scoreless for the first three minutes and raced into an 11-0 lead as Kate Oliver hit five points and then dished to Holly Winterburn for a lay-up. Behind their irrepressible defence, the lead peaked at 21-4 on another Oliver triple.

But Riders had to sustain a second stanza fightback from the Suns, as Janice Monakana came from the bench to draw a charge and then hit a trio of three-pointers consecutively in a 13-1 surge that finished the half with Suns down just 37-33. Monakana broke the Cup Final record for points scored, at 25.

League-leading Leicester showed their championship credentials by responding immediately out of the halftime break, scoring the first six points of the third to make it a double-digit lead once more on a Winterburn score. And the game was ultimately decided when they finished the period with an 8-2 burst, Oliver scoring four and Sara Hinriksdottir connecting on the buzzer to make the score 60-46.

Hannah Robb scored seven of her 17 points at key times in the fourth quarter to keep Riders in front, securing their tenth straight win and dethroning the reigning WBBL Cup champions.

Both Oliver and Winterburn had their eyes on triple-doubles, with the former scoring 18 points and dragging in a Cup Final record 14 defensive rebounds, adding five assists; while the latter had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. And it was Oliver – who got Riders off to a great start and was impactful throughout – who scooped the MVP award.

Head Coach Jesper Sundberg told Sky Sports at the end of the game,

“Beating Sevenoaks is always great for us as they provide such tough competition, but you add a first ever WBBL Cup on to that and it’s special. This is really fun for us to even have been here playing.

“We knew when we had an early lead that they would make their runs and we just needed to stay calm and find a solution for it. We struggled a bit when they went with five guards, as that put us out of our normal defensive principles, but that gave us the advantage offensively.

“It’s not the kind of game we usually play, with these high numbers, but it just meant we had to do more offensively.”