London Lions Women1828281892Win
Newcastle Eagles Women1414221565Loss

The final stand did not go the way the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles were hoping, but to be in the last two standing was a huge achievement in itself and Head Coach Matt Newby, Assistant Luke Orwin and all the players can be rightly proud of what they’ve achieved this season.

Back in November when Newby took over this looked like a team destined for a season of struggle unless he could galvanise them and help turn things around. That he did and the fact they ended up in The O2 Arena London in the Women’s British Basketball League’s showpiece event was remarkable.

Newby brought his methods and injected new blood into the team and the Ladies responded in kind. Investing in his philosophies and ideals and buying in completely to the tasks and requirements he demanded.

In doing so this group of players came together superbly, trusted in each other and went on a journey that although ultimately ending in defeat will be remembered by all for some time to come. The intention and commitment now must be for more of the same next season.

Our Eagles fought valiantly in this final tip-off of the 2023-24 Women’s British Basketball League calendar. (Photos: Gary Forster)

The final score line was perhaps a little bit harsh on the Eagles who were dealt a severe blow midweek when star USA forward Jada Dapaa tore her Achilles ruling her out of the contest. A significant loss for Newcastle when you consider her efforts in the semi-final.

That dramatic semi-final win against Caledonia and the previous week’s quarter-final win at Sheffield were not supposed to have happened. They did and it had earned Newcastle a shot at the top of the shop unbeaten London Lions, the regular season Champions.

Backed by over 120 fans in the stands, our Eagles showed their mental and physical strength in this showpiece game at The O2 in London. (Photos: Gary Forster)

London were going for a 4th consecutive Playoff Final and made a strong start against a nervous Newcastle side. Abby Myers going off early and Lions jumping out to a 14 to 2 opening. But the Eagles showed their mettle, determination and character by flying back into the game.

Tierra Hodges got going and Katie Nolan with Zoe Willis from the bench added impetus and by the end of the first period the gap was only four points at 18 – 14. It got better for Newcastle initially in the second when Willis hit a triple to bring her side back to within a point.

Our Eagles women themselves voted Tierra Hodges as their Players’ Player at our End of Season Dinner this week, perfectly teeing up a huge performance with a double-double of 21-points and 12 rebounds. (Photos: Gary Forster)

That was when Lions roared. With Savannah Wilkinson dominating inside and Holly Winterburn and Ivana Katanic pulling the strings the Eagles started to struggle and Myers was simply unstoppable. A 28 – 14 second period establishing the London platform to storm on to victory.

Not that Newcastle threw in the towel. Far from it. Hodges kept battling away ending with a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Abby Lowe netted double figures with 12 points and good support came from Chloe Gaynor, Nolan and Willis.

Point guard Lauren Saiki tried her utmost to keep her side in the game dishing out a finals record-equalling 12 assists in a great performance. But ultimately Newcastle without Dapaa couldn’t quite find enough to stem the Lions pride.

Eagles PG Lauren Saiki dished 12 assists in 33 minutes on court and scored 7-points personally including a jaw-dropping coast-to-coast. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Myers for London took the MVP honours breaking the playoff finals record with 31 points personal and Lions had four other players in double figures. All season long London have been destined for this title and competition and made it theirs in the end.

But the moral victory perhaps went to an Eagles side that has had to battle adversity and injuries all season. The legacy of their Cinderella run to this great showcase Final gave them a place as proud ambassadors of Women’s basketball in the North East.

Coach Newby’s Eagles can hold their heads high after an incredible final stretch of the season. (Photos: Gary Forster)

They need to feed off this and move forward. No looking back just look forward and continue to grow the sport in the right way with the right attitude. There’s no doubting the progress and statement they made in making the run all the way to the final is as good a building block as they could have put down.

Season tickets for the 2024-25 Women’s British Basketball League campaign are available now from the box office with the Early Bird offer on until the end of June.