London Lions win WBBL play-off final for first time with victory over Newcastle Eagles | Basketball News

Shanice Beckford-Norton was named game MVP after finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Kennedy Leonard delivered a superb triple-double for the champion Lions

Last Updated: 16/05/21 6:06pm

The London Lions lift the WBBL play-off trophy after seeing off the Newcastle Eagles. Image: WBBL

The London Lions won the WBBL play-off final for the first time in the club’s history after over-powering Newcastle Eagles 93-71 at Leicester’s Morningside Arena on Sunday. 

Records tumbled with some outstanding performances from the Lions’ stars as Shanice Beckford-Norton tied the highest points total in a play-off final with 30 points to pick up the MVP award, and Kennedy Leonard recorded a first-ever triple-double in the showpiece game with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

“The entire time my teammates were supporting me, me and Cassie (Breen) hugged a couple of times during the game, they’ve been that supportive throughout the entire season so I kind of owe it to them to have this game today,” said Beckford-Norton.

“Like I said at half-time, everybody needed to play their role and we came out and stuck to the game-plan, we stuck to what each player needed to do and we did it, we completed the job.

“We work hard in practice, Mark (Clark) gets on us for not always guarding Cassie and sticking on her like teams would and today I think every practice has prepared us for the challenge we had today with Newcastle.”

Lions won all four quarters in what was a competitive game, and despite trailing by double-figures in the first half, Eagles came back to tie it at 51 in the third period on Alison Gorrell’s ‘and-one’ play. Gorrell also recorded 30 points to tie the play-off final record.

But London’s response was immediate and decisive. They hit the next 13 points in an unstoppable surge, as Beckford-Norton conjured a four-point play and then found Chantel Charles inside, with Stephanie Umeh adding four points as Eagles were held scoreless for four minutes and the lead reached 64-51.

There was no way back from there, as Beckford-Norton hit a big corner three in the fourth period that brought up her 25th point after Leonard had driven baseline to tee her up in what almost broke the record for assists in a play-off final, before the lead went through 20 at 87-66 as Cassie Breen scored five in a row.

The play-off crown adds to London’s WBBL Trophy success earlier in the season. Head Coach Mark Clark – who has had a storied career in various roles across British basketball – ranks this among the best.

“This is right up there with winning my first championship back in 1985,” said Clark. “The great thing about this one is that it’s the beginning of something, because the organisation wants to do something big in British basketball. Shanice epitomises that, as she was a junior with us in Barking, along with Chantel, and so that completes a cycle.”

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