After a month in which London Lions picked up their first piece of WBBL silverware and Kennedy Leonard broke a league record, their star guard and her Head Coach, Mark Clark, have been recognised with monthly honours.
Leonard, a 24-year-old GB International, was the standout candidate for the Molten WBBL Player of the Month for March after being awarded MVP of the WBBL Trophy Final and then a week later breaking the league’s single game assists record.
In a stellar first season on these shores the Trophy Final was the pinnacle so far, both individually and for the team, as Leonard characteristically did a bit of everything with a season-high 21 points, as well as nine assists, seven steals and six rebounds as Lions beat Nottingham Wildcats. Live on Sky Sports, she led from the front early on with a pair of three-pointers, a steal and an assist in the opening three minutes as London got in front and never looked back.
Then one week later, in her last game of March, Leonard dished out a remarkable 21 assists as Lions beat Caledonia Pride, comfortably passing the league’s previous record of 17 in a single game; and she wasn’t all that far away from a quadruple-double, adding 13 points, eight steals and six rebounds. As the all-time assists leader at Colorado University, it’s not the first time Leonard has broken a record in that regard.
Those two momentous achievements only begin to tell the story, as her remarkable consistency so far in this campaign has been another hallmark. Over the nine games in the month, she scored in double-figures in all but one and had double-figure assists in all but two (handing out seven on both occasions).
She set the tone for herself in her first appearance of March, with a near triple-double of 20 points, 16 assists and nine rebounds in a win over Durham Palatinates. That sparked a spell of good form in which she has averaged a double-double of 14 points and 12 assists per game over the month, with six rebounds and four steals, while shooting 89% at the free-throw line.
Overall, Leonard leads the league in assists, by far, handing out 10.9 per game for her teammates (second is 7.3), and also sets the tone at the defensive end as the league-leader in steals, with 3.6 per outing. She is also top ten in the league in free-throw makes and percentage.
The form of his star guard was just one bright spot among many for London’s Head Coach Mark Clark, in a hectic month during which the Lions went 9-1 to secure a second consecutive Molten WBBL Coach of the Month award for Clark, with his team atop the WBBL Championship table for much of March.
The height of that was the comprehensive WBBL Trophy Final victory, beating Nottingham Wildcats 96-64 as Clark’s team came fast out of the blocks and were dominant from tip-to-buzzer. It was the first time Lions had won WBBL silverware, and atoned for a defeat in their only previous major final in the same competition in 2016.
They opened the month by reaching that final with a defeat of fellow title-chasers Leicester Riders in the semi-final, winning 73-58 on the road after holding the Riders to 14 points or fewer in three of the four quarters.
Following that, Lions went 6-1 in the WBBL Championship, to finish March with an overall record of 11-1 at the top of the table (now 12-2, in second place). All of those victories were by double-figures, most impressively beating Manchester Met Mystics 95-68 at the National Basketball Performance Centre after pouring in 32 first quarter points.
Fast starts were a feature of Clark’s team last month as they chase a first league title, as they won the first quarter in every single game they played in March and did so by double-figures in six of those nine games. As such, across all of their victories in the month they trailed for just four minutes of the 320 that they played.
Lions did, however, suffer their first league defeat of the campaign during March in a suitably back-and-forth contest with the Sevenoaks Suns, and were beaten again by the unbeaten Suns on the first weekend of April, setting up a huge month ahead if they are to regain top spot having slipped behind Leicester.
Something that will have initially pleased Clark after the first defeat is how they bounced back, with the Trophy Final being their next outing and starting a run of four wins in eight days that culminated with Leonard breaking the assists record against the Pride.
Overall, Clark’s team lead the WBBL in points per game (85.2) by quite some way, as well as field goal percentage (44.9%). Indicative of their style, they force the most turnovers in the WBBL at 23 per game, also leading in points from turnovers (22), as well as second chance points (16.5) as the league’s third best offensive rebounding team (14.4). Paced by Leonard, Lions also lead the league in assists (22.8) and steals (13.9).