London Lions Retain WBBL Trophy with 81-70 Victory Over Leicester Riders. MVP “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan Breaks Finals Scorning Record with 33 Points to Go with 7 Rebounds and 2 Blocks
The London Lions took their talents to Glasgow for the 2023 WBBL Trophy final and retained the chip amid a gallant effort from their midlands-based rivals. Most Valuable Player, “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan, hit three 3-pointers en route to 33 points, breaking the WBBL Trophy’s long-standing finals scoring record. The combo forward also complimented her historic points total with seven rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist.
Taylor Murray got things off to an excellent start playing the passing lanes to pick off Oliana Squire's sloppy pass attempt to Mckenzie Johnston for a fast break transition bucket. However, looking to avenge the 2023 WBBL Cup Final loss to London, the Riders returned fire with two quick back-to-back triples to take an early eyebrow-raising 2-6 lead.
Azania Stewart's vet-move drive and low post-dime to Murray allowed the Lions to move within two points of the Riders' lead (4-6) three minutes before “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan’s triple helped snatch the advantage back (7-6). During the three minutes, the Lions struggled to find their rhythm, turning the ball over and missing several shots.
That said, Shanice Beckford-Norton’s mid-range jumper, via a second chance opportunity after Ty Battle’s blown layup, sparked the capital city heroines to a 7-0 run, pushing London’s lead to a 15-8 advantage. This surge was highlighted by the Rider’s ill-fated double-team on Kiki. The forward recognised the defensive play and hit Ty Battle with an outlet pass, who dished out an assist to a wide-open Beckford-Norton for an uncontested triple.
The Riders attempted to push the tempo after both teams exchanged charity strip makes (16-10) when Mckenzie Johnston sent a high skip pass to J. Eadsforth-Yates. Unfortunately for the Riders, this proved to be the wrong decision, as the high pass caused J. Eadsforth-Yates to go out of bounds when she attempted to catch the ball. London closed the quarter with a ten-point lead (22-21) with back-to-back buckets from Battle and Herbert Harrigan.
Undeterred by the points deficit, the Riders opened up the second period with a momentum-swinging 10-2 charge that cut the capital city advantage to just two points (24-22). However, Team GB vet Shequila Joseph stopped the bleeding with a much-needed triple, extending the Londoner's command to five points (27-22).
Fortunately, despite the momentum still on their side, the Riders’ guard Oliana Squires failed to cut the advantage further, missing two crucial charity stripe shots. Holly Winterburn, 2022’s WBBL Trophy Final MVP, punished her former employers by hitting a triple which expanded the London lead to eight points (30-22).
Kiki’s midrange jimbo helped to extend London's lead back out to eight points (34-24), but this breathing room was somewhat short-lived as the Leicestershire-based franchise returned fire with a 5-0 run (32-29). Herbert Harrigan followed her midrange make with a triple (35-29), but the Riders kept knocking on the door, taking advantage of the Lions missed opportunities (35-33).
A 3-pointer from guard Mckenzie Johnston helped cut the margin to one point and give the Riders some hope of snatching the lead again. But Holly Winterburn’s poorly contested wide-open triple from the wing ended those dreams (40-36) to close the period.
However, the beginning of the third quarter saw the Lions' breathing room evaporate as the Riders came out guns-a-blazing with a 5-0 run that allowed the East Midlanders to snatch the lead (40-41). Both teams traded triples until Kiki and Murray put some space between themselves and the Riders (47-44). Once again, this space was smothered out this time when Scottish native Hannah Robb hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 47-47.
Holly Winterburn’s shifty step-through floater eventually broke the tie and sparked the Lions' 7-0 surge to the tune of their 54-47 advantage. The guard continued her run of form, knocking down a deep 3-pointer that looked like it was shot from Edinburgh (59-49). The Lions' defence stayed firm, shutting the Riders out for over two minutes until the 1:55 mark (61-51). Block party queen “Kiki” Herbert Harrigan's denial of Fiona O'dwyer’s 3-point attempt highlighted the end of the period that saw London go into the fourth with a ten-point advantage.
Shanice Beckford-Norton opened the fourth quarter for the Londoners and Herbert Harrigan followed. But the Riders continued to fight back, cutting the margin down to five points. Fortunately, this was the closest the Riders would get to closing the lead. Ty Battle went on her own 6-0 run, extending the Londoner foothold to 11 points (73-62). Taylor Murray's brace helped the Lions claim a 14-point advantage, their most significant lead, shortly before both teams traded buckets close out the game.
Holly Winterburn contributed 18 massive points, three assists, and two steals to the Lions’ 2023 finals effort. The shifty point guard also hit a game-high five 3-pointers on her way to her points total. 2-way maestro Taylor Murray helped to facilitate the Lions’ scoring production with five assists to go with two steals and eight points. Skipper Shanice Beckford-Norton was the spark the Lions needed off the bench, especially during the first half, recording ten points, one rebound, one assist and a game-leading four steals.
Low-post wizard Ty Battle recorded nine points, six rebounds (four of which were offensive boards), two steals, and one assist off the bench. The forward shot an efficient 57% (4/7) to reach her total points.