The all-conquerting Hatters are top again.
The outfit widely regarded as Great Britain’s most successful women’s sports team, have won their fourth piece of silverware in the Women’s British Basketball League, which is only in its second season.
Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters retained the WBBL Trophy in fine style, beating Barking Abbey Crusaders 79-45 in the final at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, Helen Naylor leading the way with 21 points.
Delighted head coach Vanessa Ellis said: “We had to work hard to get to where we are - credit to the players, they did the job. It’s all about winning, being our best and trying to create history.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us, we are expected to win, but it’s not easy as there are a lot of good teams in the league. We know we have to just go out and perform, there’s always pressure on us.”
Naylor won the MVP award but Ellis said: “Everybody did their bit at different times, but we have players who can step up and that’s always nice.”
Naylor said: “We came here to win, we had a great team performance and we started out really strong, which we didn’t do last week, and that’s what shocked them.
“We’re experienced in coming to finals, we’ve been to them nearly every year so nerves weren’t as big a thing for our team.
“They came out to play, they have some young players and they are going to be a really good team in a few years. I think experience is what helped us as well.
“If I don’t start well you can drop your head so to come out and hit a couple shots was a big confidence boost, but it was a great team win.
Hatters had beaten the same team by 26 points in the league the previous week, but a flying start in the final put them on to way to bettering that margin.
Naylor was the player behind that great opening quarter, scoring 11 of her points.
Sheffield races into a 15-0 lead with Naylor scoring seven of them.
It took the Crusaders until past the midpoint in the opening period to register their first points as Abiola Wabara scored four points in an 8-1 response.
Naylor ended the quarter with the final four points to take her personal tally into double figures with the Hatters already up by 12. Five points in quick succession from Teresa Da Silva spurred hope of a revival, but the holders went on a 15-2 run to build a commanding lead.
Triples from Naylor and Sabra Wrice in the same corner spot further stretched the advantage, before Sheffield captialised on Barking being in the penalty as the lead reached 23 points at the half.
Barking continued their fight when play resumed, but still found baskets hard to come by with Sheffield maintaining their strong defensive grip on the game. Despite a more competitive third period, the Hatters used an 8-1 close to further increase their lead.
It was more of the same in the final period with Sheffield’s stifling defence holding their opponents to just five points over the opening eight minutes of the fourth as they finished with a convincing 34-point victory.
Baendu Lowenthal produced an efficient double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while 2012 Olympian Julie Page showcased her big-game temperament with 11 points along with eight boards from the bench.
Hatters 79 (23,45,62) (Naylor 21, Lowenthal 13, Page 11 )
Barking 45 (11,22,36) (Wabara 12, Wilkinson/Lowe 10)
It’s back to the business of retaining the league title tomorrow when Nottingham Wildcats, the 0nly unbeaten team in the league, are the visitors to All Saints (3pm).
Naylor said: “We’ve had a really great win today, we play Nottingham Wildcats next, they’re undefeated and we need to carry this momentum forward and keep improving.”
* See Hatters two-page special plus giant celebration picture in today’s Grass Roots (Friday, January 22).