Hatters clinch 15th win on trot, as deadlock remains

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Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters remain joint top of the WBBL Championship after recording their 15th consecutive win in all competitions.

They held on to overcome Leicester Riders 66-70 in the East Midlands.

It is the fourth time that Hatters have beaten Riders this season.

The league’s highest and third highest scorers led the way for Sheffield, with Helen Naylor hitting 24 points supported by Stephanie Gandy’s double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Hatters started with confidence, but a Georgia Jones triple sparked a 13-3 push from the hosts, in which Maaja Bratka added six more, for a 21-15 lead within the last minute of the first quarter. But Hatters made two late scores in the first, and then started the second with an 11-3 run, Gandy hitting eight points in that spell as they led 24-31.

Riders hit the next six points and sneaked an edge heading into the half time break, at 42-40, as Kastine Evans scored the last four points.

But Hatters clamped down defensively after the break, and that proved to be decisive. They restricted their hosts to just four points in the first eight and a half minutes of the third quarter, while the lead reached 44-52 on ten unanswered points, six of which were scored by Naylor.

But Leicester were still in the game as Evans hit a three-pointer for a score of 49-52. Riders tied the game at 60 with seven points in a row, including a Jones three-pointer, but they could never quite get back in front.

Lauren Thomas-Johnson and Gandy were there to keep the Hatters in front with four minutes to play; and, despite Riders getting back to within one shot with 30 seconds to play, Thomas-Johnson held her nerve at the line to see the game out.

Leicester Riders 66 (21,42,51): (Bratka 21, Evans 15, Jones 14)

Hatters 70 (19,40,55): (Naylor 24, Gandy 19, Thomas-Johnson 11)

n There were wins for all of the top three in the WBBL Championship as Nottingham Wildcats, Hatters and Team Northumbria opened a gap between themselves and Leicester Riders.

n Top four positions: 1 Nottingham p 11 22pts; Hatters p12, 22; Northumbria 12, 18; Leicester 12, 14.