The WBBL Run-In 1.0: All to play for in a busy final month -

The WBBL Run-In 1.0: All to play for in a busy final month

The business end of the WBBL regular season is here with lots to be decided over a busy final month.

The top four teams at the top all have 12 wins to their name, while the battle to make the top eight is set to go right down to the wire.

Here’s a look at the current outlook for each team:

[Q] 1: London Lions (12-1)

Their first WBBL loss since April 2021 at the hands of Caledonia Gladiators appears to have been a slight bump in the road for the Lions. The response has been emphatic under new head coach Stella Kaltsidou with five wins including a league record number of points in a 133-75 victory over Cardiff and their second piece of silverware at the weekend.

Kiki Herbert-Harrigan has been in scintillating form; capped by a remarkable 33-point showing to take MVP honours in the Betty Codona WBBL Trophy final. The Lions will still be heavily favoured to repeat the sweep, but there’s still work to be done and nine league games still to be played including a trip to Scotland.

Remaining schedule: A v Suns – 1st April; H v Hatters – 2nd April; H v Eagles – 9th April; A v Wildcats – 10th April; A v Palatinates – 15th April; H v Riders – 16th April; A v Gladiators – 19th April; A v Mystics – 22nd April; H v Palatinates – 23rd April

[Q] 2: Leicester Riders (12-2)

The Riders have come up second best to the Lions in two finals now this season, but gave a much stronger account for themselves in the Trophy showdown behind double-doubles from Ashley Arlen and Fiona O’Dwyer. Krumesh Patel’s side are half a game back from London in the league standings having dropped a close battle with Essex on the road following some costly late free throws.

Leicester face their four closest challengers in a tough stretch in April and would either need London to be beaten elsewhere or take the head-to-head having lost by 16 at the start of the season. This is a strong Riders side and one that would be very unfortunate not to come away with some silverware.

Remaining schedule: H v Eagles – 1st April; H v Mystics – 2nd April; A v Suns – 10th April; H v Gladiators – 15th April; A v Lions – 16th April; A v Hatters – 22nd April; A v Wildcats – 23rd April; A v Palatinates – TBC

[Q] 3: Caledonia Gladiators (12-3)

Caledonia had quietly gone about their business this season before making the whole league take real notice by knocking off London’s 52-game domestic win streak – though road defeats to Durham and Newcastle either side have pulled them back from perhaps loftier title ambitions.

The Scottish side still have some big games to play including a double-header with the Hatters as well as the eagerly awaited (midweek) arrival of London. After losing Erin Jones to injury, they picked up Jamila Thompson for additional nous in the frontcourt alongside Abbie Wolf, while Tea Adams has been one of the league’s leading performers in the second half of the season.

Remaining schedule: A v Mystics – 1st April; A v Hatters – 7th April; H v Hatters – 9th April; A v Riders – 15th April; A v Suns – 16th April; H v Lions – 19th April; H v Rebels – 22nd April

[Q] 4: Sheffield Hatters (12-3)

The Hatters have put together five straight league wins after dropping back-to-back games by 20+ against Leicester and Newcastle in January. The second of which definitely came as a surprise in the manner of the loss, but Sheffield have responded – emphasised by their win over Sevenoaks last weekend.

With seven games to play, the Yorkshire side still face a double-header with Caledonia as well as games with London and Leicester as they battle for position amongst the top four. Karly Murphy has continued to be a double-double machine surrounded by a wealth of WBBL experience that could be vital come the playoffs.

Remaining schedule: A v Palatinates – 1st April; A v Lions – 2nd April; H v Gladiators – 7th April; A v Gladiators – 9th April; H v Rebels – 15th April; H v Wildcats – 16th April; H v Riders – 22nd April

5: Sevenoaks Suns (11-5)

The Suns had got their league campaign back on track in a big way with eight wins on the bounce before dropping consecutive games against Leicester and Sheffield. Len Busch’s side have not finished outside of the top four since the 2015-16 season, and still play three of the top four at home with a chance to chase some down.

It was always going to be a different season following the retirement of Cat Carr, but they still have one of the most experienced rosters in the league, while American guard Araion Bradshaw has continued to get better throughout the campaign.

Remaining schedule: H v Lions – 1st April; H v Wolves – 2nd April; A v Archers – 8th April; H v Riders – 10th April; H v Gladiators – 16th April; A v Eagles – 22nd April

6: Essex Rebels (8-9)

Essex finished 12-12 in the league last season as well as 10-10 the year before, and they look on course for another .500 regular season. The Rebels saw head coach Tom Sadler depart to America last month and they have had some big results this season – most recently beating Leicester Riders in front of a record league crowd.

Sune Swart and Daniella Turner have been important additions to a strong returning core and Essex will look to build some momentum having not recorded back-to-back league wins since winning four in a row earlier in the season.

Remaining schedule: H v Wolves – 8th April; A v Archers – 11th April; A v Hatters – 15th April; H v Mystics – 16th April; A v Gladiators – 22nd April

7: Newcastle Eagles (7-8)

The Eagles looked to be building some real momentum as they appeared to be consolidating their place amongst the top eight. However, injuries appear to have struck again at an unfortunate time with three players having to play 41+ minutes of an overtime loss away at Oaklands at the weekend.

They had reached the semi-finals of the Trophy, but full focus will be on the league run-in now as while they look a dangerous outfit at full strength, they are still in a vulnerable spot. Newcastle still have to play both Durham and Cardiff twice as well as the top two sides on the road, so watch this space.

Remaining schedule: A v Riders – 1st April; H v Palatinates – 2nd April; A v Lions – 9th April; H v Archers – 15th April; A v Palatinates – 16th April; A v Archers – 22nd April; H v Suns – 23rd April

8: Cardiff Met Archers (6-11)

The Archers finally put back-to-back league wins together for the first time this season since starting 3-0. Their run of 10 defeats in 11 in the league threatened their chances of the post-season, but Stef Collins’ side added to their win tally at a crucial time before falling to defeat at home to Caledonia.

Shannon Hatch and Lauren Saiki remain a key duo for the team with rising star Issy Bunyan continuing to develop her game ahead of a move Stateside next season. The Archers have five games to play which includes a double-header against Newcastle, which could prove to be decisive.

Remaining schedule: A v Wildcats – 1st April; H v Suns – 8th April; H v Rebels – 11th April; A v Eagles – 15th April; H v Eagles – 22nd April

9: Durham Palatinates (5-8)

The return of Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby has been huge for Durham. The former GB forward has wasted little time in reacquainting with the league with averages of 23.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game across since the turn of the year.

Lee Davie’s side blew Manchester away on the road as Jess Wayne set the single-game league record with 12 steals to help the Palatinates close the gap on the top eight. They have games in hand on those above them, but this does also equate to a demanding schedule in April with nine fixtures still to be played including two games with North-East rivals Newcastle.

Remaining schedule: H v Hatters – 1st April; A v Eagles – 2nd April; A v Wildcats – 8th April; H v Mystics – 10th April; H v Lions – 15th April; H v Eagles – 16th April; A v Wolves – 22nd April; A v Lions – 23rd April; A v Riders – TBC

10: Oaklands Wolves (4-14)

A much-needed win last week has given Oaklands renewed hope in their playoffs quest – now only two victories behind eighth-placed Cardiff. Cassidy Gould starred with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the 92-88 overtime triumph over Newcastle Eagles with academy players Eva Karasaite and Daisy Porter also stepping up with big plays.

The Wolves had lost seven in a row in a major dent to their post-season aspirations with just four games remaining – three of which are on the road with a 1-7 league record on their travels this season.

Remaining schedule: A v Suns – 2nd April; A v Rebels – 8th April; A v Wildcats – 15th April; H v Palatinates – 22nd April

11: Nottingham Wildcats (3-13)

The Wildcats will record less than 10 wins in a regular season for the first time, while their impressive streak of consistency in making the WBBL playoffs every year is also under heavy threat. The absences of Kennedy Nicholas, Jahnae Gyles and Brahe Ashton have left Nottingham depleted in recent weeks in a run of six straight league defeats.

Nicholas returned last weekend as Mari Stewart and Kayla Shaw continued to shoulder a heavy load of responsibility, while Natalie Charity has stepped into a starting role. The Wildcats are at home in five of their last six games including against the three teams above them to keep a glimmer of hope for the top eight – perhaps needing a similar result to that of last season when they upset Sevenoaks in April.

Remaining schedule: H v Archers – 1st April; H v Palatinates – 2nd April; H v Lions – 10th April; H v Wolves – 15th April; A v Hatters – 16th April; H v Riders – 23rd April

12: Manchester Mystics (1-16)

It’s been a tough transitional year for the Mystics, but it was good to see them finally break their league duck earlier this month, as they are a better team than their record suggests. They have rarely had their full core of senior players together all at once, while Sam Keltos has been a leading figure with 19.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

With just five games to play, Manchester are almost certainly playing for pride and it will be a further opportunity for some of their younger players such as WEABL Northern Conference MVP Isobel Robinson and Jo Vourliotis to gain vital experience at the top level.

Remaining schedule: H v Gladiators – 1st April; A v Riders – 2nd April; A v Palatinates – 10th April; A v Rebels – 16th April; H v Lions – 22nd April

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