The Sevenoaks Suns are the 2020 WBBL Cup Champions following their 74-64 victory over the Durham Palatinates in Arena Birmingham, thanks to 21 points from Janice Monakana and a 27-16 third-quarter performance that had Durham on the ropes.
The Suns made their way to the final against tough opposition, getting the better of the Leicester Riders and then the Newcastle Eagles in the Semi-Final, whereas the Palatinates made their way to the final dispatching the Essex Rebels and the Oaklands Wolves before coming from behind to clinch the final berth with a hard-fought victory over the Sheffield Hatters.
The game started out very cagey with neither taking control of the contest, taking over two minutes to break the deadlock but it was Julia Koppl getting free of her defending to get inside and make the easy layup that was immediately cancelled out by an aggressive drive from Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee.
The first period remained a low scoring affair with impeccable defence beating hard working offence. The period caught fire in the final 90 seconds as the game got stretched for the first time and Bettsy MacDonald drained back-to-back transition triples to tie it up at 14, but Janice Monakana got it right back from the corner and the final score of the period was from a lapse in concentration saw an uncontested layup scored by Ejay Ofomata to end the period 19-14.
Sevenoaks pressed their advantage in the early in the second with Monakana bringing her early points total off the bench to 7 points, and Ofomata tacking on two more. As in the first period, when the Suns grew their lead close to double figures the Suns went back to what works draining the three-pointer with Claire Paxton and Dee Hayward making it a five-point ball game.
Durham struggled to get into their rhythm as they were held to just six points for the first 8 minutes of the quarter, but Paxton tacked on four points for her sides in the final 90 seconds, firstly from the line and then a mid-range jumper to get the gap back to six but Janice Monakana showed off her supreme athleticism and drive as she kept the play alive on the out of bounds for Ofomata to convert to see us into halftime, the Suns with the advantage 32-24.
Julia Koppl put up 7 straight points for her side out of the break, punishing any small lapse inside and making a three from the top of the arc. The Palatinates needed a timeout to get points on the board but another incredible run from the Suns pushed the gap to 20 points, which had many in the arena doubting if the Northern outfit could make a game of it.
The final quarter saw a positive start for Durham as they brought the gap down to 11 thanks to a 12-4 run as MacDonald and Nicolette found their range and the Palatinates managed to up their defensive intensity and put the breaks on this dominant Suns offence.
Janice Monakana, GB international, was able to capitalise on a defensive breakdown to sink a wide-open triple to stretch the lead to 12 with 3:39 left in the ball game. Durham would get the game to ten points but it was not to be as the Sevenoaks bench on the floor win it 74-64 thanks largely to their incredible third-quarter performance which blew the tie open and had Durham fighting an uphill battle to get on terms.
Janice Monakana’s 21 points and clutch buckets rightly earned her MVP honours, but a special mention must go to the 40-minute performance from Cat Carr and 21 points and an incredible 3 point shooting night from Bettsy MacDonald for Durham.
Postgame, the MVP Monakana commented on what enabled her success, “I think we have so many different weapons, and that opens up some of the shots I had because you have to respect everyone that’s on the floor so that opened up a couple of threes for me.” “We stuck together as a team and gave me more energy for my team.”
Photo Credit: Carol Moir