The Sevenoaks Suns’ season ended in disappointment as they fell to a 70-45 defeat in the WBBL Playoff final against the London Lions.
It was a brilliant and lively atmosphere throughout as a record crowd of 10,928 spectators came to watch the countries’ two best teams face off at the O2 Arena.
Janice Monakana led the way for the Suns with 13 points, which was matched by Lions’ guard Kennedy Leonard who was eventually named MVP following her side’s success.
However, it was the Suns who started on the front foot in the first quarter, holding their rivals to just seven points on 15% shooting. After exchanging buckets in the opening minutes, the Lions only managed to score one point in the final five. A late 3-pointer from Cat Carr gave the Suns a five point lead heading into the second quarter.
The Suns’ upper hand wasn’t to last long as a quick 8-0 run started by two buckets from downtown for Shanice Beckford-Norton allowed the Lions to take their first lead of the afternoon. A layup from Carr stopped the bleeding, but the advantage was pushed to as many as 11 before the Suns could score again.
Despite a large deficit going into half time looming, the Suns refused to lie down and a late rally got them back within two points. But a buzzer-beating layup from Beckford-Norton meant the gap was pushed to five points with two periods remaining.
The Lions started the third quarter strongly, regaining a double digit advantage. But once again, the Suns finished the better of the two to keep themselves in the game. The crowd hoped that the Lions’ six-point lead would set up an intriguing final ten minutes.
A 15-0 Lions run diminished those hopes rather quickly, as the Suns’ legs began to tire. Lions’ vast strength in numbers finally took advantage and unfortunately took the game away. They ramped up their defense and forced the Suns into turnovers to get the deficit to a point they could never recover from. Leonard managed to get hot from downtown, scoring three from beyond the arc which contributed to a dominant 26-7 quarter.
Although it ended in a large defeat, the crowd in the O2 were definitely treated to an excellent game between two very talented clubs. The season didn’t end as the Suns would have wanted, but it is still one to be very proud of, capped off with involvement in a historic day for women’s basketball.
After the game, head coach Len Busch reflected on the defeat and what was still a brilliant season for the Suns.
‘It was a tough loss to the Lions at the O2 on Sunday. They’re just a very strong team, I was really proud of our effort. We were in the game for three quarters and a bit but just ran out of gas.
‘I was really proud of our whole season, we fought hard, we overcame a lot of adversity to get to the O2 on Sunday and play in the most watched game in WBBL history.
‘After that game we’re saying goodbye to one of the all-time greats in Cat Carr, who is going to retire from basketball and Janice Monakana is also retiring so we say goodbye to both of them and wish them the best. It’s been a great run and we’re looking forward to putting together another good team for next year and see if we can get it all the way.’
The Suns will be back next season looking to go one step further. It will be tough to replace key players in Carr and Monakana, but it will be a challenge Busch and his players will look forward to.
Article by: Angelia Ronayne