WBBL Cup Final preview: Riders vs Lions

The Riders are set to take on the London Lions on the big stage, as they fight for the BBL Cup in the Utilita Arena Birmingham. 

Riders look to beat the undefeated

This game features the top two sides in the WBBL this season, as the 8-1 Riders face the 9-0 Lions. The Riders’ only defeat this season came against London, but they look to tie the season series on their way to much-desired silverware. 

Leicester are fighting to reclaim their BBL Cup title from two seasons ago against last season’s quadruple winners. The winner of this one will become the first WBBL side to lift multiple BBL Cups. 

This will be no small task for the Riders, as they attempt to be the first side to beat the Lions domestically since they got the better of them on April 24 2021. 

Bossing the boards

The Riders’ success this season has come on the glass, as they pull down the second most rebounds in the WBBL and the most defensive rebounds. Not allowing second possessions has been key to the eight-game winning streak they take into this one. 

They’re led in this department by former Cup Final MVP Ashley Arlen, who is averaging 8.6 rebounds per game. The Riders have four players grabbing at least six rebounds per game, as gang rebounding has dominated the paint for this physical Riders side. 

Rebounding’s importance will be emphasised in this one, as the Riders face the league’s most efficient shooters in the Lions, who shoot at a red-hot 47.8% from the field this season. Leicester won’t be able to afford to give the ruthless Lions’ offence extra chances in the game. 

Key matchup

Oliana Squires has been in hot scoring form over recent games, averaging 14.2 points over her last four fixtures. She put up a season-high of 26 against the Caledonia Gladiators earlier in the year and has averaged 15.7 points per game in the league thus far. 

The American guard is a first-year pro, having spent four years of college at Montana State. There, she averaged 11.3 points and 1.7 steals, scoring 20 points four times as a junior. 

Squires is a shifty guard, using her agility and handles to find space at the rim or outside, where she can knock down shots effectively. She is shooting 56% from two and 34.7% from three this season, getting it done at all three levels.

Taking on Squires in the backcourt from London is former Rider Holly Winterburn, the three-time WBBL young player of the year. The British guard is putting up 15 points per game in the league this season in her second Lions year. 

Winterburn is one of Britain’s top prospects and was named to the WBBL British Team of the Year on the last three occasions. She is a GB international and won the WBBL Trophy Final MVP last season after a 16-point effort. 

Winterburn is a professional scorer and is elite at slashing to the basket and getting points in close. Her three-point shots keep defenders honest, and finds her teammates open for buckets often, averaging five assists per game. 

Expect fireworks between these two guards in this one.

Where to watch

The game, taking place at Utilita Arena Birmingham, tips off at 12 pm on Sunday, January 29. It will be televised live on Sky Sports and streamed live on the Sky Sports Youtube channel.

After the game, the BBL Cup Final takes place between the Riders and Lions, tipping off at 3 pm.

Read our preview here!