Match Report: London Lions vs Sheffield Hatters

An excellent second half performance saw London Lions maintain their perfect WBBL record with a 67-65 victory at Sheffield Hatters.

Both sides went into the game unbeaten in league games and Hatters looked well on the way to ending Lions 15 domestic game winning streak as they led by 11 points at half-time but point guard Kennedy Leonard took over as the London side recorded their second narrow victory in four days.

After struggling with illness in Wednesday’s thrilling victory against Tango Bourges, Leonard was back to her best, leading all scorers with 22 points, adding five rebounds, four steals and three assists. Azania Stewart added 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and as many steals for a depleted Lions side while Steph Umeh had seven boards to go with her 12 points.

Youngster Georgia Gayle led Hatters with 20 points and six rebounds, but the normally reliable Helen Naylor was held to eight points, although she added seven assists. The rebounding battle proved crucial as London pulled down 41 boards, with Sheffield only managing 31.

Jo Leedham-Warner opened the scoring but Hatters replied with a pair of triples in an 8-0 run, and despite a Leonard triple the home side led for the rest of the period as they took a 23-17 lead into the first break.

Baskets from Leah McDerment and Paige Robinson kept Lions in touch during the early minutes of the second period and Leonard made it a four point game at the five minute mark. But Hatters finished the half strongly with a Naylor trey helping them lead 44-33 going into the locker room.

Three point plays from Naylor and Gayle saw the lead grow to 15 after 90 second half seconds but a Stewart and-one sparked Lions into like and back-to-back Umeh baskets made it a ten-point game. Five Leonard points in a 7-0 London run reduced Hatters’ lead to three midway through the third quarter and the teams exchanged baskets before the home side took a 58-53 lead into the final intermission.

Leonard’s pull up jump shot got things moving after two fourth period minutes before Chantel Charles gave Lions their first lead since the opening minutes with 7:02 on the clock.

Scores from Leedham-Warner and Leonard gave Lions a three point lead heading into the final three minutes before Umeh put them 65-60 ahead with a jumper.

Umeh repeated the trick to take the lead out to seven with 2:17 on the clock and although  Gayle hit a triple with 25 seconds on the clock, Lions took care of the ball down the stretch to record another memorable win.