Basketball: Christmas comes early for Hatters

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Steph Gandy admitted Christmas had come early after City of Sheffield Hatters booked their place in the inaugural Women’s Basketball League Trophy final with a 87-77 victory over Leicester Riders.

The Hatters, who lost last season’s Division One Play-Off Final to the same opponents – then known as Loughborough Riders - had got off to a difficult start in Sunday’s semi-final, trailing 13-4 inside three minutes.

But they eventually found their feet, taking the lead just before half-time before seeing out the game to earn a spot in the first ever WBBL Trophy final on Sunday January 11 against Nottingham Wildcats.

Great Britain forward Gandy top-scored for Sheffield with 21 points, while Lauren Thomas-Johnson contributed 19 points along with 18 from Helen Naylor.

Gandy said: “This win is the best Christmas present we could ask for as a team.

“It was a good win for us, and great team performance. We knew Leicester would be tough opponents and they pushed us all the way.

“We were far too lacklustre in the first quarter. But we tightened up our defence and that was the catalyst for our win.

“We missed a few too many easy chances. As soon as we found our shooting rhythm, we put ourselves in the frame.”

League-leaders Nottingham Wildcats now lie in wait in the final at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena next month – a team Hatters lost to by just a point in the league back in October.

And buoyed by their performance in Leicester which took their winning run to eight games, fellow GB player Thomas-Johnson insists they go into the clash full of confidence.

“We dug in there. Leicester gave us a run for our money and posed us a lot of problems throughout,” said Thomas-Johnson.

“I can’t wait to play Nottingham. They beat us by one point early this season and it’s time we got revenge in the best way.”