A pair of familiar faces add to their trophy cabinets to start the new WBBL season, as Mark Clark and Cat Carr win the first monthly awards of the 2021-22 campaign following unbeaten starts in the WBBL Championship.
Clark’s London Lions were the last team standing at the end of last season, adding the WBBL Play-offs to their prior success in the WBBL Trophy, and they have carried that momentum through to the start of this term with seven victories in their first seven games, resulting in Clark being named Molten WBBL Coach of the Month for September/October.
Lions topped their WBBL Cup group, with perhaps the most satisfying win so far being in their tightest game yet against their title rivals, Carr’s Sevenoaks Suns. Lions won 81-76 at home at the end of September, having trailed by double-digits heading into the fourth quarter until Clark sent his troops out to pour in 30 points in ten minutes, emerging from a timeout inside the final minute to score nine of the last ten points, seven for Cassie Breen, to snatch it at the death. That set up a WBBL Cup semi-final against another unbeaten team, Sheffield Hatters.
In the WBBL Championship, they currently sit top, level with Hatters, at a perfect 5-0, already boasting double-digit wins in every outing including over Leicester Riders and Essex Rebels, as well as a huge victory over Gloucester City Queens, who had started in great form up to that point.
Lions have been dominant in the league so far as the highest scoring team at a whopping 94 points per game, demonstrating their depth with a league-leading 32 points off the bench, and are also best in rebounds and assists. At the other end of the floor they have the second-best defence, lead the league in steals and points off turnovers, and protect the paint better than any other side.
All of this has been achieved alongside a FIBA EuroCup Women campaign in which Lions have started well, with a huge qualification win over Spar Gran Canaria and group stage wins over Rutronik Stars Keltern and Castors Braine.
The start to the season has demonstrated the strength of Clark’s summer recruitment, as Lions added to their exceptional British core from last season by bringing in further elite British talent. That includes Holly Winterburn and Azania Stewart from Leicester Riders, Great Britain international stalwart Jo Leedham-Warner who plays in her first ever WBBL campaign following a glittering overseas career, as well as UMass graduate and GB junior international Leah McDerment who joined after two seasons in Germany.
Chasing London at the top of the WBBL Championship are Sevenoaks Suns, also with an unbeaten start at 4-0 led by their stalwart captain Cat Carr, who picks up the Molten WBBL Player of the Month award for September/October.
Carr is the reigning Molten WBBL Player of the Season after winning the WBBL Championship with Suns last season, and has had an extraordinary start to this campaign. She has already featured in the weekly All-Star 5 an astonishing five weeks in a row, and has posted four double-doubles and a triple-double in six games so far.
The latter came in Suns’ last game as she put up 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a defeat of Nottingham Wildcats, including a series of key scores and assists in the second half as they overturned a halftime deficit to stay unbeaten, winning 80-69. And that triple-double had been coming, as she had been consistently on the verge of it in the preceding weeks, including a monstrous 29 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists in a Cup victory over Essex Rebels, and 16 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in a league win over Oaklands Wolves.
So far, she is averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists per game, shooting 38% from the three-point line. Unsurprisingly, she is the only player who features in the top ten in the WBBL Championship for points (3rd), assists (2nd), and rebounds (4th), let alone the top five, and she has also played more minutes than any other player and leads the way in free-throw percentage, having made 14 of her first 15 at the line.
Lions are next in WBBL action on Saturday 20 November, when they face Hatters in their huge WBBL Cup semi-final clash, whilst Suns travel to Scotland to meet Caledonia this Saturday in the Championship.