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WEABL Preview – Final Fours

After starting out the season back in late September, we’re now down to just four teams in the race for the WEABL title. With all four Northern teams eliminated from the playoffs at the Elite Eight stage, our remaining teams will all be more than familiar with each other after playing twice in the regular season. We take a look at both Final Four games in the race to punch a ticket to the WEABL finals on 18 March.

#1 John Madejski Academy v #3 City of London Academy

Conference top dogs John Madejski have the luxury of home court advantage and the momentum of a great regular season campaign going into today’s game, but if there is one side they’d probably have preferred to avoid in the post season it’s City of London Academy.

CoLA are the only side to inflict defeat on the Rockets this season, coming out on top 59-51 in London back in early February. Mia Jaye Sarkodee-Adoo top scored in that one with 14 points as WEABL Player of the Week Isi Ozzy-Momodu added 13 more to go with 14 boards. Both will no doubt be a big part of CoLA’s game plan, as will captain Adaobi Nebuwa, who began to get hot during the Elite Eight win over Nottingham, scoring 16 points.

JMA can draw comfort from the fact they beat CoLA in Berkshire 62-44 this season, though that game was way back on 2 October and much has changed for both these teams since that point. In Carmen Segura Moreno the Rockets have a potential MVP candidate, the talented scorer dropped 14.3ppg in the regular season and remains a force at both ends of the floor. Add in the double-double potential of forward Anabel Latorre Ciria and the all round ability of Sitota Gines Espinosa, and JMA have plenty of weapons at their disposal.

The odds are no doubt in favour of hosts JMA here, who can make their first ever WEABL final with a win. But if there was one side in the WEABL you’d want to see them play today, it’s probably CoLA. This one should be great viewing!

#2 Copleston High School v #4 Barking Abbey

Barking’s run in the playoffs continues on Thursday as they head to a familiar foe in Copleston. Interestingly it was BA that dented Copleston’s push for the regular season title, beating Coach Drane’s side 67-58 in London in mid-January to give JMA enough breathing room to seal the #1 seed.

Revenge aside, Copleston would no doubt love to book their first ever spot in the WEABL final after making three Final Fours appearances in the last five years, and they have more than enough talent on their roster to do just that. Susannah Rafiu’s return from a shoulder injury provided Copleston with a late season boost, with the former WEABL Player of the Week displaying her ability as a legitimate two way threat this year despite her young age. Rafiu also grabbed MVP honours in the NBL U18 National Cup final this season, so she’s no stranger to the big stage.

Add in GB talent in the form of Cameron Taylor-Willis, Ella Pearson and Becky Harwood-Bellis, the outside shooting of Charlotte Redhead (a team best 3.6 made 3’s per game in the regular season) and the ever-present and now fully healthy Esther Little (WEABL best 28.3 efficiency), this is a Copleston side that is tough to stop.

But Barking will know they can do it, having already done so once this season. BA will be itching to return to the WEABL final after making it there in 2017/18 before missing out in 2018/19, and Barking certainly have a number of players who can help them do just that. Tamara Fournillier-Onadeko (13.1eff, 10.oppg,9.4rpg) is an all round talent, GB’s Lilly Annim is a factor on the boards (7.1rpg in the regular season), and Cynthia Adebayo, Nikola Kuzmanovic and Anna Trett all made it to double digits scoring in the win over Copleston.

Another very interesting contest waits here for WEABL fans, with a strong home favourite going up against a team that has a found a way to solve them in the regular season.