Sevenoaks Suns closed out the regular season with one win and one defeat as they secured second place in the standings going into the playoffs.
A 79-67 victory over Leicester Riders and a 90-76 loss to unbeaten and WBBL Championship winners London Lions drew to a close a long but successful season in which the Suns lost just three times.
Friday afternoon saw the Suns take the win in their penultimate matchup of the campaign. A trip to Leicester was headlined by 20 points and 9 assists from Cat Carr and 21 points off the bench from Janice Monakana as Sevenoaks edged out their opponents.
A strong start on both ends of the court set the tone and gave them an early 9-point advantage after ten minutes. The 25 first quarter points were spread out across the team as five different Suns registered buckets.
Riders fought back in the second and thanks to multiple trips to the line were able to keep pace with the scoring of the Suns, cutting into the lead by two going into half time.
Following the break, the visitors were still unable to create any more separation as Leicester refused to lie down, but another big quarter from Carr ensured her side maintained an eight point advantage heading into the final period.
The Suns were able to keep the Riders at arm’s length with buckets from Julia Koppl and Frankie Wurtz answering any questions the home team posed. Halfway through the quarter Sevenoaks were able to open up a bigger lead with five quick points from Renee Busch, extending the advantage to a game-high 16 points.
Ultimately it was a deficit too large to overcome and the Suns strolled to victory to record their 24th win of the season.
However, they failed to make it 25 as Sunday’s meeting with table topping London Lions ended in defeat.
It was a very even start between the league’s two best sides with multiple lead changes throughout the first period. Two three-point makes from Koppl and Busch allowed the short-handed Suns to jump into a six point lead, but the Lions locked in defensively and gave up no points in the remaining three minutes of the quarter as they fought back to leave their rivals with a three point deficit.
A huge scoring outburst from Monakana in the second came as 14 of her 24 points helped the Suns open up a seven point lead. It was a strong ten minutes on both sides of the floor as they were able to score 27 points and only let up 17.
Unfortunately for the home team, the tables were turned in the third as London erupted for 29 points and held the Suns to 19 as a late layup from Sheiqulia Joseph gave them a three-point lead.
Lions’ dominance and momentum continued into the final stanza as they ramped up the defense once again and restricted the Suns to just 14 points. They got hot from three as two consecutive makes quickly opened up a nine-point advantage. Forced turnovers and missed shots meant the Suns could never really get it going offensively again as their opponents kept extending the lead.
An 11-point differential meant that the Lions sailed to a 14-point victory as they finished the season with a perfect record with the Suns right behind them in second place.
Another 24-point performance from Monakana stood out, as she also added 12 rebounds to the box score. Carr and Busch both scored 14 apiece with Amelia Watkins contributing eight off the bench for a team that showed they are more than capable at competing with the best.
After the conclusion of both games, Coach Len Busch reflected on the ending to the season as he and his team now look ahead to the playoffs.
‘In Friday’s win against Leicester I don’t feel we played our best but we got the job done, they’re a decent team.
‘Sunday’s game against London Lions, we played a lot better, we were very, very good for certainly the first half and part of the third quarter but we were basically playing six players in that game. Lions run 12 players at you and I think we got a bit tired but we certainly showed that we can play with them.
‘Millie Watkins had a great 26 minutes for us off the bench after Julia Koppl got in foul trouble and we know we can play with the Lions so we’ll hopefully be seeing them again.’
Focus now shifts to the playoffs in which the Suns will hope to progress deep into, following a largely successful season.
Author: Angelia Ronayne