Making up the first matchup for WBBL Championship Saturday, the Nottingham Wildcats hosted Essex Rebels. Both teams, who reside next to each other in the standings, with four points apiece, looked eager to put out an energetic performance.
High energy was certainly on the cards in the opening minutes, as Essex’s supreme Sune Swart went toe-to-toe with Nottingham’s fearless Kennedy Nicholas.
A great defensive start enabled Essex to start the better, forcing a handful of turnovers, and frustrating the Wildcat’s attack. With Essex debutant Daniela Turner‘s perfectly timed steal resulting in another two points, the hosts were forced into exhausting a timeout to regroup.
While a pretty three-point shot fell for Rebels guard Ashleigh Munns, Nottingham’s speedy forward Imani Whittington responded with a strong contested left-handed layup down at the other end.
Essex, however, was finding their range early, going three for six from beyond the arc to carve out a comfortable advantage, with the first quarter winding down.
The trailing Wildcats began the second period of action in stellar fashion. In particular, Nicholas and Kayla Shaw combined to convert layups, and three-pointers, as well as take visits to the free-throw line off the back of great attacking play – Essex’s advantage cut down significantly.
With Nottingham scoring ten points uninterrupted, the lead changed hands routinely. Nicholas provided Nottingham with their first lead of the competition, while Rebels responded with a pair of Claire Paxton jump-shots and a second three-point conversion for Andrea Kohlhaas to keep the teams even.
Six lead changes concluded a dramatic first half. Rebels, however, ahead by a hair.
The game remained closely contested as it ventured into the second half. An array of shifty ball-handling moves from Nottingham guard Brahe Ashton enabled the Wildcat’s attack to flow well.
However, Turner’s equally crafty moves provided the Rebels with valuable points, maintaining the Essex lead. Kohlhaas’s third three-point conversion put the Rebels ahead by 15, as the penultimate quarter reached its conclusion with Essex firmly in the lead.
Last quarter action pitted Nicholas against an undeterred Swart. Both key players exchanged baskets early; Nicholas with a fierce post-move layup, Swart a staggering three-point shot from the top of the arc.
A name to be remembered across WBBL teams this season, Daniela Turner continued to dismantle Nottingham’s defence, amassing 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while spearheading the Rebel’s attack, as the visitors sealed a 15-point victory.
Nottingham Wildcats 50-65 Essex Rebels (12-23, 33-38, 40-55)
(Wildcats: Nicholas, 23; Shaw, 6; Ashton/Gyles, 4 – Rebels: Turner, 23; Paxton, 12; Swart, 11)
Newcastle Eagles 99-72 Oaklands Wolves (25-16, 46-33, 67-55)
(Eagles: Fernandez Pardo/Nolan, 22; Lewis/Justinak, 18; Gaynor, 10 – Wolves: George, 22; Gould, 15; Carrasco-Fernandez/Smith, 12)
Report Source: WBBL