Clark looking for players to step up

Injury-hit Lions in action in Newcastle

London Lions women’s coach Mark Clark is looking for his injury-hit side to step up as they travel to Newcastle Eagles for a WBBL game on Saturday.

It will be a weakened team travelling to the north east, with Lions missing Holly Winterburn, Leah McDerment and Valentina Klocker – with the latter out for the rest of the season.

“We’re hoping that Holly’s only suffering from Achilles tendonitis, that’s a best case scenario” explained Clark.
“Leah has a long-standing calf injury, but she’s close to coming back. We won’t be taking the two main academy players (Nicholle Lavinier and Fatmata Joseph] as they both have knocks, so we’re go up there short-handed. When you’re without Holly Winterburn other players need to step up, but this is the reality of league basketball, week-in, week-out. We’ll have one eye on the trip to Belgium, but we’re still looking to maintain our unbeaten start to the league season.”

Eagles currently sit seventh in the WBBL table having won three of their four games but it’s been a rollercoaster of a season for the north east side. Big WBBL Cup wins against Caledonia Pride and Durham Palatinates set up a semi-final against Leicester Rider with the winner facing Lions in the final. But they opened their league season with four straight losses before wins against Cardiff, Durham and Nottingham have seen them climb up the table.

Clark is enthusiastic about the Eagles side who were rescued from closure when Northumbria University pulled all investment into sport shortly before the 2018/19 season:

“I like the way they’re investing in young players” he said.
“They have Abi Lowe and Chloe Gaynor who were with us at Barking Abbey before going to The Stats, and it’s positive to see them playing in the WBBL. Chris Bunten is doing some good work there and after a difficult few weeks they’ve come up with some good results.”

Ebony Horton leads the Eagles’ scoring with 17.3 points per game while Maddy McVicar adds 9.6 points to 2.1 steals and her team-high 3.3 assists.

The game is a repeat of last season’s WBBL  play-off final where 30 points from captain Shanice Beckford-Norton helped Lions collect their second piece of silverware of the campaign with a 93-71 victory. Clark’s side also recorded a pair of victories against Eagles in the league, winning 85-72 at Barking Abbey in December before recording a 72-61 road victory two months later.

Clark knows that Eagles will want revenge for that final defeat: “When you play against a side who beat you in a final, you’ll be bursting with energy and wanting to gain revenge. They’ve brought back Maddie McVicar and it’s going to be a tough game with only one day’s preparation. They know how to win games and I hope we can get back on track after losing in the Czech Republic.”