Sevenoaks Suns recorded another two wins in a weekend double header which featured two tough opponents in Newcastle Eagles and Durham Palatinates.
A 74-56 victory over the Eagles on Saturday evening was followed by an overtime 75-73 win at the Palatinates on Sunday afternoon.
The weekend opened up in Newcastle with a much closer game than the final score line suggested. It was a tight affair straight from tip-off with both teams exchanging buckets early on. However, the Eagles burst into a quick 11-0 run towards the end of the first quarter to extend their lead to double digits. A 3-point jump shot from Renee Busch cut the deficit to eight going into the second.
In what was unfamiliar territory for the Suns, they responded in typical fashion to get themselves right back into the game. Led by captain Cat Carr’s inspiring personal quarter, scoring 14 of her team’s 20 points, they managed to claw their way back from being down eight to hold a slender one point lead at half time.
Another stellar quarter put the Suns in cruise control, as they were dominant on both ends of the floor, putting up another 20-point quarter and only allowing six Newcastle points. The league’s best defense restricted their opponents to just three made field goals from 15 attempts as well as forcing five turnovers. Amidst this they put together a 15-0 run to put the game out of sight and lead by 16 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Despite their spirited performance, the Eagles failed to make any ground in the last quarter as the Suns pulled away for an 18-point win, headlined by the current league MVP Carr’s 28 point, 8 rebound and 5 assist outing. She also became the first player in WBBL history to reach the milestone of 1000 league rebounds.
An already great weekend was turned into an excellent weekend with a second win at the Palatinates. However, this was a very close affair throughout and perhaps the toughest contest of the season so far.
Similarly to the game a day prior, the Suns’ opponents got off to a quick and aggressive start. Durham shot 50% from the field in the quarter in comparison to the Suns’ 44%. They were able to establish a 3-point lead thanks to multiple trips to the free throw line, converting 7 of their 10 attempts.
A 9-0 run to start the second pushed the lead up to as high as 12, but another huge period for Cat Carr kept her side within touching distance with 10 points to help cut it back down to four.
To regain control, another huge third quarter was needed and the Suns delivered. Despite struggling offensively, shooting 5/13 and scoring 12, the league’s best defense was on show, only conceding 5 points in the entire period. Eight of the 12 points came in a 3-minute burst, putting the Suns up 3.
Heading into the fourth, it was anyone’s game. An inspiring effort from Durham kept them within reach at all times, as they regained the lead with four minutes of play left.
Both teams struggled to get a foothold on the game, with the Suns forcing three turnovers but failing to make a bucket themselves until Renee Busch made a clutch 3-pointer to give them a 2-point lead with just under two minutes remaining.
However, the Palatinates were not done yet as a bucket from Katie Bennett sent the game into overtime.
Busch opened OT with another big three, but still they could not shake off their opponents as they refused to back down. Durham scored 12 points, all from beyond the arc as they heated up from downtown. The Suns managed to keep pace with some threes of their own, and drawing fouls, as Cat Carr came up clutch with two free throws to seal a very hard fought victory.
Again led by Carr’s game high of 24 points and 10 assists, the Suns also welcomed great contributions from Busch who scored 19 points on 63% shooting, whilst Jamila Thompson recorded a double double of her own, with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Following the weekend’s results, Coach Len Busch and Captain Carr reflected on their successes.
Busch said, ‘I was pleased to get through the weekend with two wins, in both games we fell behind early and had to claw our way back into it so I was proud of the team for doing that.
‘In Saturday’s game against Newcastle I was particularly pleased that Haylee Miller made such a big contribution for us. She came off the bench and shot the ball well and played some pretty good defense, so I was happy for her.
‘Sunday’s game was just a really, really tough game, Durham shot the ball extremely well and it was an exciting game to be a part of.
‘I was thrilled that we managed to come out with the win. Renee Busch hit some big shots down the stretch and Cat’s free throws iced it for us.
‘We didn’t expect it to be that difficult but both teams we faced played extremely well and I’m happy with our resilience.’
Carr: ‘The weekend was the start of a long series of games for us. We came out pretty flat in both games, but were able to bounce back. I think the key for both games was once we picked up our defensive intensity we were a much better team.
‘We got a big contribution from Haylee off the bench which was great for us, as well as Renee shooting very well against Durham. Sometimes when you win it won’t be pretty, but those are the games that show what type of team you are.’
The results kept the Suns on the tail of the London Lions at the top of the table, with a huge week of fixtures against the Nottingham Wildcats, Leicester Riders and Gloucester City Queens to come as they hope to keep the pressure on as the season nears an end.
Author: Angelia Ronayne