Match Report: Lions Women vs Sheffield Hatters

Jo Leedham-Warner made a spectacular return from injury as London Lions powered their way into the WBBL Cup final with a 100-66 victory at Sheffield Hatters.

The Great Britain international poured in 27 points, including three-from-six three-point shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists.

Both sides went into the game with seven straight domestic victories under their belts but a fantastic first period from the Lions saw them outscore the hosts 27-11 and never look back as they set up a final against Newcastle Eagles or Leicester Riders at the NIA, Birmingham

Captain Shanice Beckford-Norton added 21 points, eight and three steals while Kennedy Leonard dished out eight assists to go with her 12 points, six rebounds and five steals. Azania Stewart, fresh from staring with Great Britain, finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, Steph Umeh added 11 points and five boards. Georgia Gayle was the only Hatter to finish in double figures with 11 points.

Coach Mark Clark was understandably delighted to see his side reach a third straight WBBL final: “Obviously I’m really pleased with the way we dealt with a potentially difficult opponent” he said. “We got out early and controlled the game. It was great to get quality minutes into Jo, she was impressive. Azania is just continuing with the momentum she has and that’s really pleasing for us looking forward.

“It’s great that we were able to get the win without the without Cassie Breen, Leah McDermott and Holly Winterburn. It’s disappointing that Holly returned from the national team. We’ve got some momentum going into Wednesday’s game and hopefully we can get the win to move into the [Euro Cup] play-offs.”

The game was won on the board as Lions out-rebounded the home side 48-26.

Leedham-Warner opened the scoring but it was seven straight Beckford-Norton points that put Lions in charge before Stewart’s lay-up put the visitors 17-5 up after five minutes of action.

Three point plays from Umeh and Leedham-Warner wrapped up an 8-0 run as Lions opened 25-7 lead, and they went into the first break with a 16 point lead.

Hatters hit the first five points of the second period but Leedham-Warner hit a big three and the visitors were never in trouble as they went on a 12-2 run to lead 49-29 going into the locker room at half-time.

Chantelle Charles opened the second half scoring for Lions before putting them 59-33 up after five minutes and she continued her scoring run with a three to make it a 30 point game with three third period minutes remaining before Leonard’s free-throws saw the visitors’ lead reach 72-41 at the final break.

Beckford-Norton scored Lions’ first six points of the fourth period, but it was Leonard who took Clark’s team to the century mark as London continued their perfect start to the WBBL season.