The WBBL Run-In 3.0: Lions close in on repeat league title -

The WBBL Run-In 3.0: Lions close in on repeat league title

Just two weekends now remain in the 2022-23 WBBL regular season with lots still to be decided with an exciting finish in store.

The Lions could be crowned league champions on Sunday, while there are some huge games in the race for the playoffs.

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

[Q] 1: London Lions (16-1)

The Lions are on the brink of a second league title which could be sealed on Sunday. Two more wins were collected as they first dismantled Newcastle 88-36 behind 22 points from Kiki Herbert-Harrigan before an emphatic 36-116 success at Nottingham saw Holly Winterburn and Shanice Beckford-Norton both fire in 25-point hauls.

The title race had been building towards the Lions-Riders meeting at the Copper Box, but Caledonia are also in the mix of the calculations, too. Two wins this weekend for the Lions would seal the title providing that the Gladiators don’t beat both Leicester and Sevenoaks.

Remaining schedule: 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 (15-3)

It’s been a commendable title challenge from the Riders, but they look set to come second best to London once more as they suffered their third league defeat at the hands of Sevenoaks. Leicester saw off Durham with ease on Thursday night off the back of a 29-12 start, but failed to get themselves going against the Suns – falling to an eventual seven-point loss.

And, of course, second place is far from guaranteed either. Krumesh Patel’s side host third-placed Caledonia on Saturday ahead of the crunch clash with London so anything is possible from the outlook of the top four by the end of the weekend.

Remaining schedule: H v Gladiators – 15th April; A v Lions – 16th April; A v Hatters – 22nd April; A v Wildcats – 23rd April

[Q] 3: Caledonia Gladiators (14-4)

It was a tale of two battles over the Easter weekend between Caledonia and Sheffield as they jostle for third spot. The Gladiators had made a bright start on the road before being undone in a one-sided second half to fall to a 24-point defeat, but they bounced back in style at home to return the favour with a double-digit win.

Erin McGarrachan top scored with 17 points, closely followed by 15 points apiece from Chantelle Handy and Tea Adams in the 70-57 success. The tough run-in continues with trips to Leicester and Sevenoaks this weekend with two wins needed to extend the title race, should London win both of their games with the two teams set for an ensuing midweek showdown.

Remaining schedule: A v Riders – 15th April; A v Suns – 16th April; H v Lions – 19th April; H v Rebels – 22nd April

[Q] 4: Sheffield Hatters (14-5)

Sheffield endured a contrasting battle with Caledonia as both sides picked up a double-digit win at home. The Hatters were down four at the half before blowing their opponents away in the second half to win by 24 as Georgia Gayle and Karly Murphy both netted 20 points.

Murphy then pulled down a single-game league record tying 26 rebounds in the road loss having already set the club’s single-season league record and will look to finish an impressive rookie year. Three home games remain for the Hatters, but it remains to seen what Georgia Gayle’s status is like after a facial injury in the first encounter.

Remaining schedule: H v Rebels – 15th April; H v Wildcats – 16th April; H v Riders – 22nd April

[Q] 5: Sevenoaks Suns (14-6)

The Suns could well be hitting their stride at just the right time. Len Busch’s side have got themselves back in top four contention after wins over Cardiff and Leicester and will be dangerous opponents to face in the playoffs.

Renee Busch went 7-of-7 from the field for 21 points in the 25-point win in Cardiff before they dented Leicester’s titles ambitions with a hard-fought 67-60 victory at home as Araion Bradshaw finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. They face another big test on home soil as Caledonia make the visit on Sunday.

Remaining schedule: H v Gladiators – 16th April; A v Eagles – 22nd April

6: Essex Rebels (9-10)

The Rebels looked on course to lock in their spot in the playoffs as they led Cardiff by four points inside the final quarter before eventually being edged out 75-70 on the road. They remain in control of their fate having defeated Oaklands which had put them back at .500 in the league standings.

Claire Paxton posted a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds to pass the 1000-point mark in league play in the process. The Rebels visit Sheffield on Saturday before welcoming bottom-placed Manchester in their final home game with one win likely enough to advance.

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

7: Newcastle Eagles (8-10)

Just the one game this past week for the Eagles as they dropped to 8-10 with a heavy loss away at London. They were held to just 36 points in the encounter but did welcome back Katie Nolan and Abby Lowe to their lineup in more encouraging news moving forward.

Their next three games are all against fellow top eight contenders with a huge weekend seeing them host Cardiff before taking on Durham in the North-East derby. Two wins would complete the job – and even one may be enough to advance – but anything less would put them in a precarious position heading into the final weekend.

Remaining schedule: H v Archers – 15th April; A v Palatinates – 16th April; A v Archers – 22nd April; H v Suns – 23rd April

8: Cardiff Met Archers (8-12)

Two games remaining, two games against Newcastle. It could not get any bigger for the Archers. After a 25-point loss at home to Sevenoaks, they responded with a crucial five-point victory over Essex as Shannon Hatch poured in 26 points.

The win lifted Cardiff back inside the top eight, but they have played two more games than ninth placed Durham which leaves little margin for error in their double-header with the Eagles. They could clinch their spot in the playoffs this weekend if results go their way, but they won’t want to be leaving anything to chance.

Remaining schedule: A v Eagles – 15th April; H v Eagles – 22nd April

9: Durham Palatinates (7-11)

Lee Davie’s side picked up two wins in the midst of their hectic end to the season schedule. They started with a 13-point loss to Leicester on Thursday before returning to winning ways by beating Nottingham and Manchester in back-to-back games.

They poured in 40 points in the third quarter en route to a 59-91 success away at the Wildcats as Elle Hendershot posted 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, while Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby netted 23 points in each game to maintain a league-leading scoring average. Four games still to play, two of them are against the Lions so that could well put extra onus on the visit of Newcastle on Sunday in a huge encounter.

Remaining schedule: H v Lions – 15th April; H v Eagles – 16th April; A v Wolves – 22nd April; A v Lions – 23rd April

(e) 10: Oaklands Wolves (4-16)

Oaklands slipped to another defeat as they pushed Essex on the road before falling by 18 points. They still have two games left to play, starting with a trip to Nottingham this weekend with young players from both teams’ academies expected to get a lot of minutes in the matchup.

Remaining schedule: A v Wildcats – 15th April; H v Palatinates – 22nd April

(e) 11: Nottingham Wildcats (3-16)

Nottingham will officially miss out on the playoffs for the first time in WBBL history with two more defeats seeing them drop to 3-16 in league play. The Wildcats played the weekend without in-form Mari Stewart and were dealt a further blow when Kayla Shaw went out injured less than 10 minutes into their game with Durham.

Kennedy Nicholas battled away inside with consecutive double-doubles including 14 points and 20 rebounds as the only senior figure in their 80-point home loss to the league-leading Lions. They will target their next game with a chance to return to winning ways as they host Oaklands before also taking on Sheffield on Sunday.

Remaining schedule: H v Wolves – 15th April; A v Hatters – 16th April; H v Riders – 23rd April

(e) 12: Manchester Mystics (1-19)

The Mystics were undone by a 24-7 third quarter on the road against Durham as they eventually fell to a 22-point defeat. Abby Niehues set the club’s single-game rebounding record with 22 – just the second Mystics player to have 20+ in a game, while Sam Keltos added yet another double-double in the defeat.

Remaining schedule: A v Rebels – 16th April; H v Lions – 22nd April

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