Kennedy Leonard was recently named BJA WBBL Player of the Year. Image: WBBL

Kennedy Leonard was not long ago named BJA WBBL Participant of the Yr. Picture: WBBL

Newcastle Eagles head coach Chris Bunten and London Lions guard Kennedy Leonard know each other perfectly, but pleasantries will be place to 1 aspect when the pair fulfill in the WBBL enjoy-off closing.

Bunten’s Eagles facial area the London Lions – and point guard Leonard – in the WBBL enjoy-off closing this Sunday, stay on Sky Athletics, but the not likely pair are outdated relatives friends.

Leonard explained: “We’ve been messaging the very last pair of times. I asked him ‘what’s your gameplan against us?’. And he reported, ‘we have to prevent you, Cassie Breen, Shanice Beckford-Norton, Chantel Charles, Stephanie Umeg, Paige Robinson…’ He mainly outlined our full crew, and was like, ‘then perhaps we’ll retain it close’. He’s this kind of a jokester.”

Inspite of the camaraderie, when the ball is tipped on Sunday, it is all organization.

Bunten has demonstrated that he is aware how to keep his crew on the process in hand. The Eagles have had their ups and downs this year, with two players leaving to indicator with groups in Europe, and a number of accidents hitting the crew, not to mention remaining hit by Covid-19 constraints. But there is a thing about this time of calendar year that gets the coach fired up.

His capacity to transform it on and off is great for the Eagles, as they have taken the time to celebrate these massive new wins in advance of turning their concentrate back again to the court docket in time for the up coming video game. It also aids that his star player is of the exact same frame of mind.

“It’s been truly upbeat,” Alison Gorrell instructed Sky Sports, just after the guard dropped 22 factors, 12 rebounds and 10 helps versus the Sevenoaks Suns in the semi-last.

“Everyone is even now enthusiastic, but that is appear down a minimal little bit as we are in ‘focus mode’ once more.”

Gorrell is an skilled in partaking a performance attitude. She performs with athletes all around the earth, together with NBA gamers and high-amount clients in the States. But the Newcastle Eagles are also benefiting from her psychological overall performance coaching.

She mentioned: “At the conclude of the working day, it is just an additional basketball activity. It is however five-on-5, almost nothing variations. We never have the strain on us. London has a great workforce with a lot of gamers and they are anticipated to beat us. We’re there and we know we can earn but we have to go out with the mentality that the strain is on them and we can take pleasure in the instant, and not develop it up in our heads, I believe we have a great likelihood.”

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On the other stop of the courtroom, Leonard is instilling a positive way of thinking into the Lions, and stated: “Every video game we have absent into enjoy, we have mentioned ‘there’s no tension on us’. If you imagine back to previous year the Lions have been -16, they experienced the worst report at any time in the WBBL, so, truly, we’re pondering we’re not intended to be below.”

Below new possession, London head mentor Mark Clark introduced in Leonard and remade the roster a little bit, but their quick accomplishment this time stunned absolutely everyone on the workforce.

Leonard explained: “At the starting of the season, we were being 10- just before we performed Sevenoaks and missing. We could all truly feel the strain making up on us, and due to the fact then we have tried out to explain to ourselves, ‘there is no stress on us, we’re not supposed to be here’.”

It will be tough to avoid strain creating up on Sunday. Specially when it feels like the total region is at the rear of the Cinderella story of the Eagles coming from the seventh seed to defeat the next-greatest staff in the Championship, the Leicester Riders, and then adhere to it up with a arrive-from-driving victory about the top rated-seeded Sevenoaks Suns.

The Lions have their own triple-double queen in Leonard, but there is higher depth on her squad, compared to the Eagles.

Throughout the Championship, London played 11 gamers a lot more than an typical of 10 minutes for each video game. That rotation has been shortened to 7 gamers in the participate in-offs, with Ines Goryanova averaging 9.8 minutes and two details per contest, but the Eagles have only been equipped to go six deep in their two participate in-off game titles so far.

Leonard claimed: “We’re a group that likes to run and press it, so if we can retain them likely and make them weary, then hopefully by the close of the 3rd or fourth quarter they’ll be gassed.

“My favorite matter to do is get an support – I would instead get 50 helps than any details. Steph caught a move in a video game the other day and it almost broke her nose since I threw it so tricky at her – at the very least she caught it and produced the lay-up. But I will need them as considerably as they require me.”

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All-around 30 for each cent of London’s scoring will come from changeover, but the Eagles are ready for it. Gorrell claimed: “We’re heading to have to dictate the tempo a small little bit, but truly it arrives down to generating smart conclusions. London is genuinely great at capitalising on groups that take fast shots, or not the very best pictures, or early turnovers, and they normally execute in changeover.

“A great deal of the periods you think, ‘well we can afford to pay for 1 or two missed shots’, but London will capitalise on that. We’re likely to have to be definitely clever in phrases of when we must consider to run in transition towards them or when we must slow it down and make confident they are not equipped to get us going up and down. They have a deep staff so we’ll need to regulate that.”

1 way they can take care of is owning the products and services of Orieoma Chukwu-Etu, who returns from a couple video games out due to concussion.

Possessing a seventh pair of trusted legs so Bunten can relaxation his best 6 strategically could make the variance.

The coach said: “Like any mentor will convey to you, we’ll look at the weapons that can harm us and how they’ve been scoring. Sixty-ish factors of the 81 they ordinary occur in the paint. We can not enable Cassie Breen get any rhythm from the three-stage line, and Kennedy is arguably MVP and an unbelievable passer.

“Interestingly, when we’ve performed her, we have held her to 8 and 9 helps, which for any other player on any other team would be superior, but her sights are a good deal better, so we want to search at that. Abby Lowe will be matched with her, but exterior of that it’s just our rules.”

With a good approach that has worked in the previous, and the psychological concentration that Gorrell is bringing to a staff, Bunten is cooking up a little something fantastic for his Eagles. And with Leonard dishing almost everything up for her Lions’ crew-mates, she could just choose the Lions from the worst team in the WBBL to successful the engage in-off last in one period.

The BBL and WBBL play-off finals acquire location at Leicester’s Morningside Arena on Sunday May perhaps 16, all over again dwell on Sky Athletics.


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