Basketball: Sevenoaks Suns rise to their highest point

    STAR QUALITY: (Back, l-r) Jade Blackburn, Sandra Kolodziej , Ta’Yani Clark, Haylee Miller, Anne Pedersen, Milly Watkins, Kaitlyn Lewis; (front) Dani Lozzi, Shelby Greig, Gabby Nikitinaite, Cat Carr, Renee Busch

    SEVENOAKS SUNS won their first Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) title when they beat the Leicester Riders 82-67 in the Trophy final.

    Cat Carr scored 24 points for the Suns and Anne Pedersen 21, ably supported by Gabi Nikitinaite (13).

    Riders took the lead early on but the Suns established a 10-point cushion in the third quarter and left their powerful Midlands opponents behind.

    “It was a great win for us, we deserved it,” Pedersen, who was named Most Valuable Player, told BBC Sport.

    “We came out a bit slow, but we got into our rhythm and started to play our game. Once we got going, I thought we played very well.”

    “This is the highest level we’ve ever reached,” said coach Len Busch, who has been in charge of the club since it started 12 years ago.

    Since then the Suns have won numerous national championships at Under-16 and Under-18 level, and the second division of the national league. “We’re very proud but the emphasis is still on the development of junior players. We had two of our Under-18s in the starting line-up for the final.

    “So it’s been a mixture of young players coming on really well and we also have a good core of five senior players.

    “We have two Americans, Cat Carr – who has been at the club for four years, a terrific all-round player – and Ta’Yani Clark, and one girl from Denmark, Anne Pedersen. They are outstanding people and outstanding players.”

    Leicester Riders coach Matt Harber paid tribute to the Suns, saying: “The game played out perfectly for them. We turned the ball over 25 times and they’re a very dangerous team in transition.”

    Len acknowledges that -basketball is not a major -participation sport in this country in comparison to the US – especially given the -popularity of netball among girls – despite its emphasis on youth culture and its exciting cultural background.

    “It’s a bit of a struggle, but it’s a great game and most people who come and watch it fall in love with it,” he says. “It’s really good for girls too because it’s got the same rules as it has for boys.  Plus it’s an Olympic sport – and you can get scholarships to go to the US.”

    Originally from Chicago, Len is proud of the number of girls from the club who have won scholarships to attend school in the States – 16 in total, -including three this year alone.

    “Schools over there are looking out for players all the time, boys and girls, and they are reaching out to us.”

    He adds: “I’m extremely proud, they’re a great group and they work really well together. This achievement is above and beyond anything we had ever hoped for.

    “Every year we have been getting a little bit better and I’m hoping we can continue to improve like that.”

    The next challenge is to reach the play-offs for the league season. Currently sitting fourth in the WBBL, they are on course for a home quarter-final tie.

    The club is also open to boys. If you would like to join the Sevenoaks Suns, visit www.sevenoakssuns.com or contact Len Busch on 07834 356565 and lenbusch@aol.com.