Molten Betty Codona WBBL Coach of the Year –…
Mark Clark of the London Lions has been awarded the Molten Betty
Codona WBBL Coach of the Year award, voted by his peers from the twelve other
WBBL clubs, in recognition of an historic campaign that has seen Lions win at
least a treble, unbeaten so far in 33 games, with the Play-off Final coming
this Sunday at The O2 Arena, live on Sky Sports.
By winning the WBBL Championship, WBBL Cup, and WBBL Trophy, Lions
became the first team to do a treble since Sheffield Hatters in 2014-15 – the
WBBL’s inaugural season – which is fitting as this award was recently renamed
in honour of that club’s founder, and british Basketball legend, Betty Codona
OBE, who sadly passed away in March.
Currently 33-0 in all competitions, with one game to play, it is
the first time that a WBBL club has had an unbeaten season through all of the
Championship, Cup and Trophy, and only the second time that a club has had a
perfect league campaign, following Sevenoaks Suns in 2018-19.
On top of all of that, Lions valiantly represented the WBBL and
the nation on the continent, reaching the knockout stages of the FIBA EuroCup
Women and achieving a famous victory over powerhouse Tango Bourges at Crystal
Palace, inflicting one of just two defeats on the eventual winners.
The list of achievements began in the off-season, as Clark
assembled a formidable roster including an array of Great Britain
internationals and London 2012 Olympians, bringing Jo Leedham-Warner back to
these shores for the first time in her professional career, alongside
fellow-Olympian Azania Stewart. Mid-season, Clark added Shequila Joseph,
another GB international in her first WBBL campaign, having graduated from Ole
Miss and played across Europe. There was the acquisition of one of the nation’s
leading young lights in Holly Winterburn, and a core of returning stars
including Kennedy Leonard, Shanice Beckford-Norton, and impactful Americans
Cassie Breen and Stephanie Umeh.
The depth and balance of the roster was evident as they had seven
players average double-figure scoring in the regular season, paced by Breen and
Leedham-Warner at close to 16 points per game, both top ten in the WBBL
rankings, also second and third in three-point percentage; while Leonard led
the league in assists, and Umeh and Stewart were first and second in field goal
And that roster wasted no time, getting off to a flying start in
league play and winning the WBBL Cup at the Utilita Arena, Birmingham, in
January, by overpowering Newcastle Eagles 87-47 on that day – the first time
that Lions had been past the quarter-finals of this competition – as Azania
Stewart scored 20 points to win MVP and lift the season’s first silverware.
Nothing else was settled, however, until the sternest tests were
faced from March onwards as Lions met the defending champions and the league’s
other unbeaten team to that point, Sevenoaks Suns, three times in quick
The first of those was the BBL Trophy Final at the Emirates Arena,
where Lions clamped down defensively to beat Suns 72-36 as Winterburn led the
way with 16 points. Two much tighter league clashes followed, with Lions using
a big second half performance to edge Suns 67-58 at the Copper Box Arena in
March, ultimately wrestling the WBBL Championship title from their rivals for
the first time since 2017.
Overall, Lions finished the regular season
campaign leading the league in almost every offensive category, scoring an
average of 96 points per game which was 11 clear of their nearest rival, while
they also finished the campaign as the league’s best defence having been second
in that regard for much of the year, conceding an average of just 54 points per
game. Their high intensity style was epitomised by a league-high 14 steals per
game, two clear of any other team, leading to 25 points from turnovers, five
better than anyone else.
Clark and his Lions will now look to complete the
perfect season, winning all four trophies and remaining unbeaten, as they
prepare to face Sevenoaks Suns in Sunday’s WBBL Play-off Final at The O2 Arena,
live on Sky Sports Arena and YouTube, tipping-off at 13:15.