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The Sevenoaks Suns have progressed to the semi-finals of the WBBL playoffs following a close-fought 66-55 win at home to the Essex Rebels.

Trailing for most of the game, the Suns managed to fight back late on and avoid an upset, led by a near triple double from Cat Carr in which she scored 29 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 9 assists.

Both teams struggled offensively to start the game, with the Rebels shooting 27% and the Suns slightly better at 36%. However, the Rebels were rewarded for an aggressive opening with trips to the free throw line and two trebles from Andrea Kohlhaas giving them a slender first quarter lead. This was a lead they would not relinquish for over 30 minutes of the game.

The deficit increased further, as the Rebels continued their hot streak from beyond the arc, draining four 3-pointers in the second quarter. Carr’s personal 7-point quarter kept her side within reach but they went into half-time down seven, in need of a big performance to turn it around.

Rebels held the Suns to multiple scoreless periods, one in which they managed to stretch the lead to double figures halfway through the third, but an 11-5 run from the home side to close the quarter shifted the momentum back in their favour as they entered the final 10 minutes down five. It was a great effort from Janice Monakana to keep her team well in the game, as she scored seven of the Suns’ 13 third quarter points.

In the final period, the Suns absolutely took over and showed why they are one of the best teams in the country. The intensity in which the Rebels had been playing with all game had begun to falter, thanks to the patience and quality of the Suns. Facing a five point disadvantage with their season on the line, Carr went into MVP mode, outscoring the entire Rebels team with 13 to their 9. Renee Busch also converted a timely three out of a timeout which put the Suns up six with four minutes to go. This put them in full control, with the Rebels unable to buy a bucket.

The Suns’ excellent defense gave up just four points in the final six minutes which completed an impressive turnaround winning the fourth quarter 25-9 to advance to the next round.

In addition to Carr’s 29-point outing, Monakana and Frankie Wurtz both recorded double doubles.

Following the game, head coach Len Busch and guard Amelia Watkins gave their thoughts on what was a crucial victory.

Busch said, ‘We faced a very determined Essex team today. They came out with a lot of intensity and we struggled to match them.

‘In the fourth quarter we finally started to get the better of them as we started to score more and consequently their intensity waned and we were able to pass them by. I was really proud of our resilience and our determination in the fourth quarter to take control of the game.

‘Cat Carr was a huge factor in our fight back as it seemed that she was not going to let us lose and Renee Busch hit a huge three at a critical moment in the fourth quarter to deflate the Rebels. Very proud of our team.’

Watkins added, ‘It was a hard fought game and Essex made it tough for us. Some of our shots weren’t dropping in the first half but we pulled together and showed real character to fight back in the second half and come away with the win.’

Focus now shifts to a semi-final meeting with 5th seed Nottingham Wildcats, with both sides winning a game apiece in the regular season.

Author: Angelia Ronayne

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