The Sheffield Hatters were crowned the 2019 WBBL Cup Champions following their 62-60 win over the Sevenoaks Suns in Arena Birmingham on Sunday.
The Suns started in predictably strong style opening up a 4-0 lead with Cat Carr and Clark scoring with solo drives, but the Hatters would have the best of the rest of the quarter putting together a 14-0 run to take a 16-8 lead, with Livulo dominating in the paint drawing double teams opening up opportunities for her teammates or taking them herself.
The quarter ended 22-14 to the Hatters despite the Suns having great looks at the basket they were unable to convert their opportunities.
The second quarter followed a similar format for the Suns who had great open looks at the basket but failed to get their shots to drop. The Hatters didn’t fare much better in the quarter and it took almost five minutes for either side to get their opening field goal of the quarter, Sarah Toeaina scoring on a solo drive to extend the lead to 26-16.
The final minutes of the quarter were the Cat Carr show as she went off for seven points and a great assist as the Suns looked to close the gap. Campbell got the wrong side of Carr as Carr put up the layup Campbell fouled her to send Campbell to the line for the three-point play.
Campbell went down the other end and drained a three-point to get those points right back and cool the game heading into half time as the Suns were looking to get a foothold back in the tie.
Carr got straight to work to get the second half underway with two points in the paint but the Suns once again fell into a hole as the Hatters put together a 6-0 run growing their lead to 12 points at one point in the quarter. The Suns, though, were ready for streaks of their own with Carr dangerous whenever she had the ball in the lane as her passing caused persistent problems for the Sheffield and combining with several trips to the line for Monakana brought the Suns back in to the contest trailing by 5 at the end of the period.
The Suns dominated the early going in the final term with Carr scoring an early basket to bring the lead down to just 3 points but a fantastic defensive effort killed the clock and prevented the Suns reducing the gap further.
Toeaina went up the other end and was sent to the line but missed her first, draining the second stretching the advantage to four which was soon halved by Koppl stepping back for a midrange two-pointer.
Livulo was sent to the line on her next trip up the floor but failed to convert either of her free throws piling the pressure on herself and her team.
The Suns had the lead for a moment as Da Silva’s backdoor cut was rewarded with a world-class pass from Cat Carr but Cooney’s long two-pointer erased that just seconds later.
Livulo made no mistakes from the charity stripe with four minutes to go as she restored her side’s lead 53-51 after she was fouled by Fritz going to the basket.
The Suns’ hustle could never be called into question as they gobbled up offensive boards and had the lead once more in the final term as Good drained a three but Gorrell scored off the glass and then made two from the line to get the Hatters breathing room.
Never to be stopped through Da Silva made two of her own from the line to bring the game to within one. Clark went to the line on a foul from Naylor and gave her side the one point advantage making both.
With one minute to play the Suns led by one, Good making an incredible blow to deny Gorrell, but they were unable to make the most of their next possession. After a great stand by the Hatters Sarah Toeaina was sent to the line by Koppl, who fouled out, and with the game on the line, she drained them both to make it 59-58 with just 22.9 seconds left to play.
Rebee Busch , with ice in her veins, nails a two from the foul line after it looked like Sheffield had done enough to snuff out the danger. The Hatters had just seven seconds to get a basket and with 1.4 seconds on the clock, Helen Naylor drained a three-pointer to crown the Sheffield Hatters the WBBL Cup Champions 2019.
The game was an incredible advert for the WBBL and basketball in the UK as two great sides battled to the death to crown this season’s champion. The Hatters have the trophy, and complete the set of WBBL titles, but the real winner today was British Basketball.
Photo credit: Carol Moir