WBBL Cup Final preview: Can Leicester halt London's long unbeaten run? - Hoopsfix.com

WBBL Cup Final preview: Can Leicester halt London’s long unbeaten run?

The first piece of silverware is up for grabs on Sunday as London Lions take on Leicester Riders in the 2023 WBBL Cup final, in Birmingham.

While the rivalry is not quite the same as it is between the two teams in the BBL, they are currently the top two in the WBBL Championship and it’s set up nicely to be a telling point for the remainder of the season.

Here’s a closer look at the matchup:

Road to the Finals

London have dispatched two of the WBBL’s most successful ever clubs after beating Sheffield Hatters 102-48 in the quarter-finals before overcoming Sevenoaks Suns 69-84 in their last four encounter.

Seven players reached double figures in their opening victory – played at Oaklands – with scoring spread throughout the roster as London jumped out to a 31-12 start and never looked back. Kiki Herbert-Harrigan top scored in the semi-finals with 15 points, while Holly Winterburn dished out 11 assists.

As for Leicester, they too made an emphatic start as they brushed aside Nottingham Wildcats 53-80 and then held off Essex Rebels 83-69 in the semi-finals.

Ashley Arlen posted 22 points and 11 rebounds against her former side in the quarter-finals with McKenzie Johnston recording a double-double of 11 points and 12 assists at home to the Rebels as a 24-12 fourth quarter push sealed the deal.

51 not out for the Lions?

London took their historic domestic win streak to 50 games last weekend in which time they have collected five pieces of silverware (their sixth came in the Trophy a month before the run began). Mark Clark’s side have been dominant again this season with the 80-point demolition of Newcastle the latest example.

Holly Winterburn has been in the conversation for league MVP before, and looks to be an early frontrunner this season with averages of 15.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Last season’s Trophy final MVP is orchestrating the free-flowing offence that also includes Kiki Herbert-Harrigan, who has been hurting teams all across Europe with an effortless jumpshot and fierce rejections.

It was a shame to see star guard Kennedy Leonard depart recently, but the Lions still have more than enough talent at their disposal with an incredibly deep roster that includes last year’s Cup final MVP Azania Stewart and captain Shanice Beckford-Norton bringing unrelenting energy from the bench.

Do the red-hot Riders have enough?

The Riders’ only loss this season came in an early league meeting with London, but they have continued to get better and produced an emphatic display to see off Sheffield Hatters last week. Krumesh Patel’s return coincided with a rebuild of a roster that has quickly bonded, despite a number of new additions.

Former league MVP Ashley Arlen is still as effective, while the backcourt duo of Oliana Squires and Mckenzie Johnston have both impressed. They have plenty of grit and determination from the likes of Hannah Robb and Kirsty Brown (read our recent feature, HERE) as well as dependable role players off the bench.

While perhaps Squires and Arlen are most capable of producing a big individual scoring display, it’s going to take a huge collective effort if Leicester are able to overcome formidable opposition. Sevenoaks were no match as last season’s closest rivals, but this is a Riders team full of confidence.

History awaits the winner

In six years of the WBBL Cup, there have been six different winners. That changes in 2023 as these two teams have the chance to become the first team to lift the title for a second time.

Leicester were victorious in 2021, while London eased past Newcastle 12 months ago. The common denominator on both teams? Holly Winterburn. The GB guard is aiming to become the only player to win the Cup on three occasions with Janice Monakana also winning it twice.

Jessica Eadsforth-Yates emulates Winterburn and Monakana in competing in successive Cup finals for two different teams having been part of the Eagles roster in 2022.

Sunday 29th January, 12pm tip – LIVESTATS

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