The Sevenoaks Suns have booked their place in the WBBL Playoff Final following a thrilling 66-64 victory over the Nottingham Wildcats.
Fans were treated to a tense but entertaining affair in what was the last home game of the season.
A trip to the O2 and another meeting with the London Lions now awaits as the Suns look to fight for another WBBL playoff championship.
Having won the last game between the two sides convincingly, the Wildcats came into this one with plenty of confidence. They were also looking to build on the momentum gained from their upset of fourth-seed Leicester Riders in the previous round.
However, the Suns quickly established control of the game, showcasing their excellent defense to force their opponents into difficult shots and restricting them to just 31 FG% (5/16).
They also asserted themselves offensively, with Janice Monakana scoring 10 of her game-high 24 points in the first period to give her side an early nine-point advantage.
Multiple trips to the free-throw line for the Wildcats prevented the Suns from growing their lead, but it soon started to open up with a quick five points from Renee Busch at the 4-minute mark stretching the gap to as many as 17. But a 15-2 run from the visitors to close the half cut the deficit to four and they were right back in the game.
Defense was on top in the third quarter with both teams struggling to put the ball in the basket in what was a low-scoring 10 minutes. Busch carried the majority of the load with eight of the Suns 12 points, including two from downtown.
Nine Wildcats points allowed the Suns to extend the lead by three to seven heading into a crucial final quarter.
Monakana dominated once again, with two three-pointers stretching it to a 9-point game with six minutes remaining. The two teams kept exchanging buckets which meant neither could extend nor cut into the gap.
Despite it being an eight-point game with two minutes on the clock, the Wildcats refused to lie down. They began a quick 6-0 run to make it a one possession game with 40 seconds left and a nervy ending.
Needing a two to send it to overtime, the Wildcats managed to force a turnover but could not convert their final attempt as forward Praise Egharevba’s jump shot was off the mark.
This meant another win and another final for the Suns as they closed out their most important victory of the season so far.
Monakana added eight rebounds and seven steals to her 24 points, whilst Busch contributed 14 points of her own. Julia Koppl posted a near double double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
After the game, a jubilant Monakana and coach Len Busch shared their thoughts on what was a very successful day.
Monakana said, ‘The last time that we played them I think that game we lost by about 20, so today for all of us we just wanted to come out and redeem ourselves and show that we can be a better team and that we’re growing and learning throughout the season.
‘It was really good, coming here and just wanting to play hard and let our defense fuel our offense. I think just trying to focus on the defense when my shots weren’t falling, just not being hard on myself, and just trying to focus on the defensive end and get that to fuel me.
‘Getting the win in these types of games just means more, we’re playing for each other and it just shows. I think we’ve had a very up and down season, with a lot of lessons and I think we’re just putting it all together when it matters now at the end of the season.’
Busch added, ‘That was a great win for us today against a very good Nottingham team. They had beaten us pretty handily a few weeks back and we made a lot of adjustments and played a really good defensive game for most of the game today.
‘I’m really happy for the team, they managed to finish on top. Janice was outstanding offensively and everybody was really good defensively.
‘We’re looking forward to going to the O2 again and one more crack at London.’
The Suns now have a fourth WBBL playoff final to look forward to, which will take place on Sunday 15th May at the O2 Arena. Another triumph will add to successes of 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Author: Angelia Ronayne