The London Lions defeated the Sevenoaks Suns 70-45 in the WBBL play-off final to close out all four titles of the season with a perfect 34-0 record
Image: Carol Moir)
Not many teams in all sports can claim to have had a perfect season. After beating Sevenoaks Suns 70-45 in the Women’s British Basketball League play-off final on Sunday, the London Lions proved invincible in 2021-2022 in front of a crowd of 10,928 at the O2 Arena.
Although the Lions entered Sunday’s competition as big favorites, the win certainly wasn’t easy. The Suns moved the ball well early and started forefoot, but they were outplayed by the impressive, relentless London defence.
After an anxious opening few minutes, London found their rhythm as Holly Winterburn finished spectacularly through contact. The Lions started to catch up, with players like Shequila Joseph dominating the rebounds before going to the line to convert after a good play from Winterburn.
The Suns went into the second quarter with a 12-7 lead, but the Lions came back thanks to a hot hand from Shanice Beckford-Norton. The captain sank three consecutive three-pointers in style – and the O2 Arena could feel the momentum beginning to swing in favor of the undefeated Lions, with their smothering defense matching their offensive firepower in the second third.
Fans and players alike benefited from the electrifying atmosphere, and the Suns fought back late to stay within reach. Renee Busch and Frankie Wurtz both hit from deep, but a buzzer-beater layup by Beckford-Norton ensured the Lions went into the game with a solid 30-25 lead at halftime.
Newly crowned WBBL MVP Jo Leedham-Warner ensured the Lions continued to pressure their opponents by securing a quick steal and hitting a breakaway layup. Winterburn then nailed an open three as London pulled out a double-digit lead to the delight of home fans at the O2.
Leedham-Warner started to find her rhythm as she hit a three before hitting another layup after an assist from Winterburn and it spelled danger for the Suns. Azania Stewart added another three-pointer that swept through the basket perfectly, and the Lions ended the third quarter firmly with a six-point lead.
The Lions continued to assert their advantage by combining an overwhelming defense with a special offensive game, highlighted by Kennedy Leonard’s three-pointer in a pivotal moment of the fourth quarter. Leonard, who was undeterred by a mask after suffering an injury in training, played like the fabled masked Kyrie Irving as she passionately showed what the three meant – a fist punch amid the roar of the crowd suggested the Lions were the history came closer.
When it mattered, London displayed the class and power that reigned all season to secure play-off final victory, adding the final jewel to complete an unprecedented quadruple and establish themselves as the WBBL’s greatest all-time team to claim. It was well deserved — the Lions outplayed the Suns by 11 points by turnovers and 15 points from the bench.
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Beckford-Norton finished the game with a game-high 15, while Leonard was named MVP of the game for them after amassing 13 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. After the game, the 25-year-old joked that the mask might be a blessing in disguise.
“I told Leah she needs to break my nose more often!” Leonard joked after the game. “I don’t think I’ll be wearing it again, it was just because I broke my nose and bent my nose in practice on Thursday.”
The injury certainly hasn’t slowed Leonard down and no one has been able to stop London this season. Let’s say it again: 34-0. Historical.
The London Lions really were the kings – or queens – of the jungle that is the WBBL in the 2021/22 season. Sunday was her ultimate crowning glory.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/american-sports/london-lions-wbbl-playoff-final-26976872 The London Lions end a historic unbeaten season by beating Sevenoaks Suns in the WBBL play-off final