Sheffield Hatters secured the league title this weekend, making it their 19th Division One league top spot and their 7th win in the last 8 years of competition in the WNBL.
This came after a 98-83 victory over Betty Cadona Classic champions Nottingham Wildcats on Saturday. Loughborough Riders moved level with Cardiff Archers after losing their last three games. The victory at the Archers Arena gives them their fourth win in the top half of the league. Barking Abbey took another home defeat at the hands of Team Northumbria. The win books Northumbria into the playoffs who are now clear at the top of the bottom four.
Nottingham took the momentum in the opening moments of the game, holding a 5 point lead over the Hatters after the first quarter. However the Hatters were hot on their tail and a 27 point second quarter put them back in the lead and up 43-38 at half time. A very competitive third quarter paved the way for an expected fourth quarter battle between the first and second placed teams. It was Hatters who came out on top storming their way to a 98-83 win off of a 34 point fourth quarter.
Adrien Ritchie showed her fine form and consistency for Nottingham with 38 points to lead the game, followed by 27 from Hatter Steph Gandy and 20 from Helen Naylor.
The Loughborough Riders controlled much of the tempo of their game at Cardiff, winning the first three quarters and leading 49-36 before the final stanza. Archers fought hard to win the final quarter, but the defensive effort from the Riders that kept the home side to 17 points over the second and third quarter was too much to change the final result.
Riders Coach Matt Harberr was happy with his teams performance:
“Having lost the last three games it was really great to win this one on the road. Travelling to Cardiff is never easy and you know it’s always going to be a battle.I thought we competed with a lot of energy and spirit for the whole game, which was really pleasing, considering this is an area we have struggled with recently. I thought it was a well rounded team performance and we had good contributions from all of our team”.
The Riders finished with four players in double figures, with Westcott leading with 14, followed by Jones (13), Bratka (12) and Baird (12). Sarah Wagstaff top scored for the game with 17 points.
Team Northumbria continued their dominance of the bottom half of the league with a win at Barking Abbey. Barking were able to rattle Northumbria in the first quarter, showing perhaps their best defensive effort this season in keeping Northumbria to 8 points.
However, Northumbria soon responded with 20 points in the second quarter which turned the tables and resulted in Abbey chasing Northumbria for the remainder of the game. Northumbria saw out the win to put them in the WNBL play offs. Spotwood top scored with 21, followed by 11 from Bland. Ross Mason led Barking Abbey with 12.
“I was really happy with the way we implemented our defence,” said BA Head Coach Mark Clark after the game. “It was our best performance of the season in many ways. We struggled to make shots that I would expect us to make; it bodes well for next season.”
Loughborough will look to take their effective team performance from Cardiff when they host Sheffield Hatters this weekend, whilst the Wildcats and Archers will be hoping to bounce back from their losses when they face each other in Nottingham. Manchester Mystics will be eager to repeat their win of a few weeks ago when they host Barking Abbey.