London Lions sweep WBBL and BBL Cup Finals against Leicester Riders for first trophies of season

London Lions sweep WBBL and BBL Cup Finals against Leicester Riders for first trophies of season

The Lions took a big 95-42 win over Leicester Riders in the WBBL Cup final in the first game at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan paced London with 19 points and after starting quietly, homegrown talent Holly Winterburn added 16, which earned her Cup MVP honours as every Lions player got on the scoreboard.

The Riders' Oliana Squires though was the game's highest scorer with 23 points.

Lions captain Shanice Beckford-Norton praised her team's defensive effort. She said: "We know what we can do defensively, and we just needed to switch that on today. Once we did that there was no stopping us after that."

It was Beckford-Norton who, on an out-of-bounds play with six seconds to go in the first quarter, peeled around a screen on the right side, and pulled up from her spot to sink a mid-range jumper to put the Lions up 24-15.

Lions' Katsiaryna Snytsina showed she can do more than shoot threes and crossed the lane to score her first two-point field goal of the game to open the second quarter.

Squires refused to back down from the physical Lions defence and kept finding ways to the rim, and she used a quick first step to get a shot off beneath the basket.

But the continued physicality of London was holding the Riders back. They built a 20-point lead with two minutes left in the first half.

Picking up where they left off, the Lions forced the Riders to use all 24 seconds of their opening shotclock in the second half.

Winterburn had only scored three points in the first half but came out for the second with purpose and attacked the rim - shaking her defender with a Euro step to lay in the ball. She then got open on the perimeter to score a three off an Azania Stewart pass.

Snytsina continued her shooting from distance, and put the Lions up by 28 points with six minutes to go in the third quarter before Leicester's Ashley Arlen got a baseline drive to drop. London made it a 30-point gap with a pair of free throws from Ty Murray a minute later.

Full court pressure from the Lions used up the Riders' shotclock and forced them into a well-defended three-point attempt. The long rebound fell to Lions' Leslie Vorpahl, who pushed the pace, and found Chantel Charles cutting along her right side for an easy lay-up to increase the lead to 38 at the end of the third frame.

After the break the Riders set into a zone defence that stopped the Lions. Squires then hit a three to lift Leicester's hopes with nine minutes left.

The London side increased their defensive intensity to get back-to-back stops, and Winterburn continued her crafty play to get an open shot on an out-of-bounds play, followed by a fast-break lay-up for the Lions to secure a 40-point lead with five minutes left.

London Lions won the BBL Cup as well with a 79-71 victory over Leicester Riders in the second game at the Utilita Arena.

Just as they were looking comfortable going into the final quarter, the Riders, last season's Cup winners, bombarded London as they staged a fightback.

Sam Dekker steadied the Lions, hitting the first six points of the fourth quarter for his side as he guided them to victory.

Dekker also scooped MVP honours with a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds.

"This is step one for us," he said afterwards. "It's an important one but we've got to stay consistent now. We'll celebrate this as we wanted to win this and we have achieved it. It's a great feeling."

Dekker added: "For me, playing in Russia, Turkey, I've played in some great venues and this final was definitely up there in terms of atmosphere and intensity. It's great for basketball in Britain and I'm happy to be part of it."

"It was exciting for us," Lions coach Ryan Schmidt said.

"We talked from day one about what we're doing is not easy and we have a brand new team, playing in the EuroCup, you see the roster we have put together, the expectations are high from the get go."

Schmidt added: "Anytime you have an opportunity to win a championship, it's special. It doesn't happen all the time and hats off to Leicester, we have nothing but respect for these guys."

Zach Jackson paced Riders with 16 points.

From the opening tip, Leicester looked to get under the skin of the Lions players and drew early fouls from Dekker and Luke Nelson within the first minute.

Six early points from Kimbal Mackenzie kept the Riders ticking but London managed to keep their noses in front, using a balanced scoring rotation led by Aaron Best, who hit a fade-away from the corner to give his side a 13-8 cushion.

Offensively the Lions got into their stride to hold a 21-16 lead after one quarter.

In the early stages of the second, London secured their first double-digit lead thanks to Ovie Soko. When Kosta Koufos restored their 10-point cushion at 28-18, Riders coach Rob Paternostro called a timeout.

Back-to-back scores from Dekker pushed the Lions' advantage to 37-26 until Mackenzie again responded for Leicester.

However, as time wound down to end the half, Jordan Taylor hit a fade-away jumper to give the Lions a 41-32 advantage.

Patrick Whelan narrowed the gap for Leicester to 41-34 at the start of the third quarter, as he absorbed the contact to lay it home, only for Dekker to hit back with his fourth three-pointer of the contest.

The Riders reduced the deficit to 56-46 thanks to a triple from Zach Jackson. But London were relentless, with Soko at the heart of everything at both ends, giving them a 14-point lead heading into the final quarter.

Leicester however started the final quarter with a 10-0 run. Dekker then scored the Lions' first six points.

Ultimately it was the Lions who took their chances to see out victory and lift the first piece of silverware this season.

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