Our Game of the Week heading into the Easter break sees a Division 1 Women's match-up with two teams who are vying for the fourth and final playoff spot.
Team Northumbria host Nottingham Wildcats (follow live stats) on Saturday and for coach Deirdre Hayes , a win is vital if her club has any chance of progressing to the post-season:
'The season has not gone to plan,' said the Northumbria coach. 'But many teams including Nottingham would probably say the same thing. We would love to get to the Final Four as we did two years ago but it is not that straightforward. We always seem to struggle against Nottingham; that is both down to our performance on the day and credit to them how they upset the way we play. Nottingham has the upper hand with two league victories against us but we will do everything we can to finish the season as strong as we can.'
Nottingham has more or less dominated both league games as Hayes points out, beating Northumbria by 21 at the end of January and there was a 50-point demolition (97-47) on 11 February. The advantage does lie with them, but if results don't go their way they could lose out on the fourth spot to Northumbria.
Wildcats coach Karen Burton looks forward to the trip north and admits the return of American star Ta'Yani Clark to the Northumbria line-up makes them a formidable opponent:
'Northumbria is a good side who are coached well with the experience of Deirdre Hayes . They have two good Americans and now Clark is back playing they have competed well in the last few games,' she said.
Team Northumbria have won their last three straight and the return of Clark from injury has been a big part of this, as her own coach admits:
'We have had two keys to our improved performance - one is the full time return of Ta'Yani Clark to the line-up. She is not 100% but she could not be kept off the court any more. She is the catalyst for the team,' said Hayes.
'The second thing is that while she was out players had to step up and many got more playing time than they normally would, or played out of position. Although it was difficult this has helped them develop as players and us develop as a team. We are not where we want to be but we are making the best of the season.'
Clark is undoubtedly one of the league's top players, featuring in the top five in points, rebounds and assists and is currently in her third season with Northumbria.
Wildcats have their own host of talent and bringing in American Abigail Wentworth to replace Judy Wright seems to have helped the club after a slow start this season. Wentworth is averaging 23 points per game and shoots an impressive 50% from outside the arc.
'Our team again has come from the bottom [of the league] with the change of personnel of Judy Wright to Abigail Wentworth; we have now got ourselves into contention and pushing for playoffs,' said Burton.
'It will be tough going into the game without Siobhan [Prior] who is out with an injury sustained in the win against Leeds, but hopefully other players will pick up the points and take advantage of extra minutes on the court,' continued Burton who is also England's U16 Women's coach.
When looking at the playoff picture, a win for Nottingham on Saturday will seal them fourth place but a Northumbria victory opens things up.
If Hayes' club win, Sevenoaks defeat Barking Abbey and then both Northumbria and Wildcats lose to Hatters and Archers next week, there will be a 3-way tie for fourth place. The final playoff spot would then be a battle between Nottingham, Northumbria and Sevenoaks with the determing factor being a 'mini-league table' involving the season's games between those teams only.
It's too early yet for predictions but the results of this weekend's games will set the stage.Courtesy of: http://www.englandbasketball.co.uk
Leicester Riders join Nottingham Wildcats and Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters in the WBBL Play-Off Semi-Finals. WBBL Play-Offs, Quarter-Finals, First Leg Leicester Riders 70 (14,34,43) (Hayward 25, Livermore 21, Thompson 9) Barking Abbey Crusaders 64 (14,25,36) (Wilkinson 17, Johnson 13, Naydenova-Goryanova 9) Leicester Riders booked their spot in the WBBL Play-Off Semi-Finals with a 70-64 victory against Barking Abbey Crusaders. Matt Harber's side join Nottingham Wildcats and West... [read more]
Leicester Riders join Nottingham Wildcats and Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters in the WBBL Play-Off Semi-Finals.
WBBL Play-Offs, Quarter-Finals, First Leg Leicester Riders 70 (14,34,43) (Hayward 25, Livermore 21, Thompson 9) Barking Abbey Crusaders 64 (14,25,36) (Wilkinson 17, Johnson 13, Naydenova-Goryanova 9)
Leicester Riders booked their spot in the WBBL Play-Off Semi-Finals with a 70-64 victory against Barking Abbey Crusaders.
Matt Harber's side join Nottingham Wildcats and Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters in the last four after holding off a late charge from the visitors.
Dee Hayward (170-G-91, college: Armstr.Atlantic) netted a game-high 25 points to lead the Riders to victory with Erika Livermore adding 21 points and 13 rebounds.
After an even first period, Leicester began to pull away in the second as they established a nine-point advantage heading into half-time.
The Crusaders held the home side to just three points in the opening seven minutes of the third as they closed to within a point, before 6-0 Riders close.
A 9-0 run put BA 43-45 ahead only for the Riders to respond to lead 60-52 with four minutes left and were able to hold on for the victory.
Savannah Wilkinson led BA with 17 points, while Abigail Johnson tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds as their season comes to an end.
Two WBBL powerhouses have progressed to the WBBL Championship Play-off semi-finals as Nottingham Wildcats and Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters won on Saturday as the journey to The O2 Arena began. Wildcats, the top seeds and back-to-back league champions, swept Cardiff Met Archers aside as they won 77-46 with Ashley Harris(187-F/C-90, college: Wayne St., NE) posting a double-double of 26 points and 13 rebounds. Wildcats have unfinished business in the post-season, having twice been run... [read more]
Two WBBL powerhouses have progressed to the WBBL Championship Play-off semi-finals as Nottingham Wildcats and Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters won on Saturday as the journey to The O2 Arena began.
Wildcats, the top seeds and back-to-back league champions, swept Cardiff Met Archers aside as they won 77-46 with Ashley Harris (187-F/C-90, college: Wayne St., NE) posting a double-double of 26 points and 13 rebounds. Wildcats have unfinished business in the post-season, having twice been runners-up in the Play-offs.
Hatters, the 2015 Play-off winners, came on strong in the fourth quarter to get past Manchester Mystics, 75-90 on the road. They were led by Helen Naylor' 24 points, although Naomi Campbell was crucial down the stretch with ten fourth quarter points.
Nottingham Wildcats are through to the WBBL Championship Play-off semi-finals after overpowering Cardiff Met Archers 77-46 in the East Midlands on Saturday, with Ashley Harris posting another big double-double of 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Wildcats are unbeaten in seven WBBL meetings with Archers, and had twice beaten them by more than thirty in this campaign.
They were also unbeaten at home throughout the league season, and all of that showed as they were 14-0 up inside three minutes when Siobhan Prior opened the game with two early three-pointers, and Ashley Harris added two more on her way to eight early points.
Stef Collins single-handedly fought back for the visiting Archers, but Hannah Shaw came from the bench to make back-to-back scores for Wildcats, and they led 26-10 after ten minutes, with Prior adding another trey.
Wildcats average six three-pointers per game, and they had made as many by the end of the first quarter, while allowing Archers to shoot just 20% from the field in the first half.
Archers, who had made it into the last Play-off place with three wins in their final six games, had no way back against the league champions.
Harris added nine more points in the first five minutes of the second stanza, and the lead went through 30 as Harris added four more and Prior hit another triple in a 9-2 run in the third period, reaching 64-33 when Prior added two more three-pointers, shooting 6/7 to that point.
And it stayed at that margin as Wildcats held their visitors scoreless for the first five minutes of the fourth, in what was their third best defensive performance of the season, while Melisa Mendes and Maya Hyacienth added late triples.
Wildcats are the top seeds, they've won back-to-back WBBL Championship titles, but they have never followed that up with a Play-off crown, having been runners-up in each of the last two campaigns.
Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters are into the WBBL Championship Play-off semi-finals after winning 75-90 on the road at Manchester Mystics in a clash between the league's fourth and fifth placed sides.
Hatters, Play-off winners in 2015, came into the game having lost their last two league games, and three of their last four on the road, to finish in their lowest ever position in the WBBL. And they were soon a long way behind in this game as Mystics raced into a double-digit lead at 22-9 when Rheanne Bailey, Lauren Thomas-Johnson and Amy Browne hit early three-pointers.
But Hatters then rattled off a quick nine points in response, capped by Jo Lowry's 'and-one', and they were back within one shot when Georgia Gayle hit a three-pointer. Helen Naylor then opened the second stanza with another triple, and Hatters were soon in front at 32-30 when Steph Gandy scored consecutively.
The teams - who won once each in league meetings, the head-to-head settled by just three points - could then barely be separated until the latter stages, with seven lead changes and the teams tied on six occasions.
But Hatters, who beat Mystics in the regular season run in and took that head-to-head, came on strong late on, winning the fourth quarter 28-10, beginning as Gandy and Naylor opened the period to put them in front.
Naomi Campbell scored five to keep Hatters in front, and Gayle made an 'and-one' as that pair scored all of the points in the decisive 11-2 run, Campbell proving crucial with ten fourth quarter points as Gayle's triple made the score 82-73.
The lead was double-figures when Naylor scored heading into the final minute, to keep Hatters in the race for The O2 Arena and a shot at regaining the title.
The WBBL clubs/coaches have cast their votes for the WBBL All-Defensive Team of the Year for 2016-17 and it is as follows: Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee (Team Northumbria) The livewire guard has taken her game to new levels in recent seasons and not only at the offensive end of the floor. Her quickness and basketball IQ have made her a real power defensively for Team Northumbria as she leads her team in steals. Rheanne Bailey(174-G/F-92) (Manchester Mystics) Showing leadership all over the c... [read more]
The WBBL clubs/coaches have cast their votes for the WBBL All-Defensive Team of the Year for 2016-17 and it is as follows:
Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee (Team Northumbria) The livewire guard has taken her game to new levels in recent seasons and not only at the offensive end of the floor. Her quickness and basketball IQ have made her a real power defensively for Team Northumbria as she leads her team in steals.
Rheanne Bailey (174-G/F-92) (Manchester Mystics) Showing leadership all over the court, Bailey is a colossus for Mystics and has been setting the tone defensively in an impressive season since they moved to their new home last summer, with a WBBL Cup to show for their efforts so far.
Steph Gandy (Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters) The veteran knows how to get the job done for her team. Her ability to guard multiple positions remains most impressive to those opposing coaches trying to find a way to break down Hatters and evade the attentions of Gandy.
Brittany Winborne (Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters) She may not be the biggest in the paint, but the physical presence of Winborne and some spectacular work on the glass as the league's leading rebounder, has meant the WBBL rookie has been one of the few constants in a challenging campaign for Hatters.
Tricia Oakes (Caledonia Pride) Check out any action from WBBL newcomers Caledonia Pride and you can expect to see Oakes stuffing the highlights reel with blocked shots as she is the league's top swatter. She has also been a real leader on the boards for her team as well.
Off the Bench - Siobhan Prior (Nottingham Wildcats), Georgia Jones (Manchester Mystics), Dom Allen (Manchester Mystics), Jamila Thompson (Leicester Riders), Melisa Mendes (Nottingham Wildcats), Deanne Hayward (Leicester Riders), Stef Collins (Cardiff Met Archers).
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