London Lions routed Nottingham Wildcats 96-64 to lift the 2021 WBBL Trophy.

In style too at a spectator-free University of Worcester Arena. Dominant from start to end.

A first major prize for the capital club and perhaps a sign of things to come amid their evolution from Barking Abbey, and perennial struggles, towards the expansive and ambitious umbrella of the Lions.

Their foes lost Jasmine Joyner after barely 90 seconds to a knee injury and, time after time, their interior defences were breached.

56-26 ahead at half-time, London – paced by 25 points from Cassie Breen – ruthlessly locked the gates and coasted as much as 63-28 clear, therapy for a side who had to deal with a Covid outbreak early in the campaign.

“It’s the first trophy for the organisation,” said Lions head coach Mark Clark.

“The first one is obviously a big one. They’re a really good group of people from the moment they came in and they dealt with all the situations. So to get a piece of silverware is just a great feeling.”

We will never know if Joyner’s confinement to the sidelines was the game changer. The likelihood is that it was not.

Rolling 13-2 ahead at the outset, the Lions were the aggressors and profited greatly with Kennedy Leonard – the game’s MVP – pulling their strings with some panache and scoring two of her trio of three-pointers inside 29 seconds during the early statement of intent.

Breen was a woman possessed, contributing to a haul of 29 free throws in the first half alone which provided 19 points. The guard from Michigan concluded the contest as a perfect 10/10 from the line and although she was among a Lions core who toiled from long range, their precision in the paint was irresistible.

Chelsey Shumpert attempted to rally Nottingham but it was an impossible endeavour.

Down 56-26 at the half, their deficit advanced to as much as 35 in the third period before Shumpert catalysed a 9-0 run.

A mere surface dent with the effectiveness of the Lions depth illustrated by 19 points from Stephanie Umeh off the bench.

Entering the fourth 77-49 clear, Clark could sit back and watch the show, the tit for tat doing nothing to threaten the advantage.

Shumpert and Chantel Charles skirmished with a momentary push and shove but it was a rare outbreak of combat in a one-sided scrap.

The Wildcats guard fouled out with six minutes left, picking up a game-high 27 points, six rebounds and all five of her team’s three-pointers.

But with Leonard, the holder of a single Great Britain cap, impressively injecting 21 points, nine assists, six rebounds and seven steals, London completed a Sunday stroll.

I’m just excited that we won,” Leonard said. “I feel bad that a player on their team got hurt but I’m excited that we won.

“Jasmine is an incredible player and rebounder. She changes the whole dynamic for them so as soon as she went down, I figured it would be tough for them to fight back from it. But I went over to her after the game and told her she’s a great player and I feel for her.”

It is a triumph which they hope will spur them onward to convert their current Women’s British Basketball League leadership to a second domestic prize in due course.

Leonard – who suffered personally from Covid – was a difference maker, Clark acknowledged.

“It’s always good to have a coach on the floors,” he said.

“It’s always good if Ken and I are on the same page as we have been from day one. Her team-mates appreciate her because she makes them better. And she’s got some great backcourt partners.”

Game Stats


Images: Ahmedphotos


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