Pride made the trip to London at the weekend, taking on league leaders and recent WBBL Trophy winners London Lions in the Championship. The form book suggested this would be a difficult day for Pride, but the Pride players went into the game looking forward to the challenge of playing against a top team that played uptempo basketball.
Lions opened the scoring with a 3 from American sharpshooter Cassie Breen, but Pride answered back through a drive by Sian Phillips to get Pride on the board. Consecutive scores from London saw them stretch their lead, but early on Pride were hanging with the league leaders as layups from Eabha Kerr and Ella Doherty kept the Scots within 2 points. However a 7-0 run from Lions saw them extend the score to 15-6 at the midpoint of the 1st quarter as Kennedy Leonard began to take control of the game at the point guard spot, showing her full range of passes. Sian Phillips was continuing to attack the basket for Pride to keep the scoreboard ticking, but a series of mini-runs by London allowed them to extend their lead at the end of Q1 to 28-14.
The 2nd quarter opened with Pride looking to fight back, scoring the first 5 points of the quarter through a Phillips drive, a Doherty free-throw and a mid-range shot by Maud Ranger. However Lions then began to show the dominant form that saw them win the WBBL Trophy Final in convincing fashion as they went on an 19-0 run over the next 6 minutes of the period as Pride committed a series of careless turnovers that contributed to their own downfall. The run was finally ended by a Sian Phillips layup with 2:14 remaining in the half. A low scoring spell for both teams followed, before Pride finally got a little more success in the final 30 seconds with scores from Sophie Leslie and Eabha Kerr reducing the deficit to 22, with the score 48-26 at the half.
Lions opened the scoring in the 3rd quarter as Kennedy Leonard found recent GB call-up Paige Robinson for the layup, but Pride came right back at them as Eabha Kerr found Taryn Cummins in transition for layup of her own. Lions continued to get success going to the hoop, but Pride were hanging with them now, as scores from Pollyanna Storie and Sian Phillips prevented Lions from pulling any further away in the first 5 minutes of the period. A couple of consecutive scores by London built their lead to 27, but Maud Ranger came back at them with a midrange jumper followed by a 3 to counter scores at the other end. The teams continued to trade scores for the remainder of the period, but the final score of the period went to Pride as Rose Harvey hit Jenna Beattie for a layup that meant Lions had only extended their lead by 3 points in Q3, with the score 68-43.
The final quarter started poorly for Pride however, as Lions forced a pair of turnovers and grabbed a defensive rebound, converting all them into points on the fastbreak in a quick 6-0 run. Maud Ranger ended the run with a pull-up jump-shot before a scrappy 2 minutes ensued in which each team could only add a pair of free-throws, keeping the London lead at 29 going into the final 5 minutes. Having spent most of the game setting up her teammates, Kennedy Leonard began to show her scoring ability in the late stages of the game, but Ranger and Phillips continued to answer back for Pride. However Leonard ended the game as she had started it, assisting on the final four baskets for Lions on her way to setting a new WBBL record, with Pride only able to answer back through a corner 3 by Jenna Beattie, as Lions ran out comfortable winners 91-59.
Maud Ranger led Pride with 19 points and 9 rebounds, and Sian Phillips added a customary double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, but no-one else really got going on a tough day for the Scottish team.
Kennedy Leonard finished with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 8 steals and an incredible 21 assists, with Stephanie Umeh the main beneficiary of Leonard’s passing masterclass as she scored 27 points.
Speaking after the game, Pride coach Donnie MacDonald said: “Lions are a good team and Leonard had a strong game, but we were architects of our own downfall today through poor effort in transition defence and a lack of communication. We played as individuals today, Lions played team basketball and the results speak for themselves. There is a lot of potential in our team and we have great people, but that means nothing if we can’t translate it into performances on game days, so we will need to go away and work out how we want the last month of the season to go for us.”
Next up for Pride is a home game against Manchester Mystics on Saturday 3rd April.