Doncaster-born Helen Naylor shoots Sheffield Hatters to WBBL Cup glory

Helen Naylor celebrates her match-winning three-pointer. Photo: Mansoor Ahmed
Helen Naylor celebrates her match-winning three-pointer. Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

Practice made perfect for Helen Naylor whose last gasp three-pointer won the WBBL Cup for Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters.

The Doncaster-born small forward’s winning shot came with 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock and earned Sheffield a historic 62-60 win over Sevenoaks Suns at a packed Arena Birmingham.

With victory, Sheffield became the first franchise to have won all four pieces of WBBL silverware – having won the Trophy, league and play-offs in previous seasons.

“We’d drawn up a play and it didn’t quite go to plan,” Naylor told BBC Radio Sheffield.

“But we do that plan in practice and sometimes the ball ends up in my hands and I end up having to take a long shot, so I have practised it in games and in practice before.

“I was thinking ‘get enough legs on it, get it high enough and hold your follow through.

“When it went up I thought ‘ooh, that looks a little bit left’.

“And then as it came down I thought ‘yeah, that’s good’.

“It felt like one that went up to the clouds and came back down with snow on it!

“It felt like it took ages to go in but I’m just really happy it went in.

“There are so many times throughout your career that you take shots like that at the end of the game and more often than not you miss them.

“Luckily it went in and I’m happy that it did!”

Sheffield led 34-27 at the halfway stage but their advantage was reduced to five points at the end of the third quarter.

The Suns, who were previously unbeaten this season, nudged one point ahead with just seven seconds remaining – before Naylor had the final say.

The Cup became Sheffield’s fifth piece of silverware of the WBBL era and a first success since winning the Trophy during the 2015-16 campaign.

“It feels absolutely fantastic,” said Naylor, who tallied 11 points in Sunday’s final.

“It’s no secret we’ve not been in a final for a few years and firstly it was just amazing to be back here.

“There’s no other feeling like playing in a final and for trophies, that’s what you play for.

“The ball was in my hands at the end and I took the shot and it went in so that’s great.

“That wasn’t the reason we won. The girls have been fantastic this year, everybody plays for each other.

“Had that been last year we probably wouldn’t have won because we would’ve fallen apart.

“So it’s just fantastic we stayed together and played for each other and ultimately that got us the win in the end.”

Naylor, younger sister of fellow international Sarah, started her EBL career with hometown club Doncaster Panthers in 2004. 

Her potential caught the eye of the Hatters, where she won two regular season championships and two overall titles over the next three seasons.

She then joined Leeds Carnegie for a season before returning to Sheffield as they began their attempt to return to the top of the British game.

Naylor represented Great Britain at under-20 level before making her full international debut against Finland and competing at the World University Games in 2009.