Having contested the last national final of the curtailed 2019-20 season when winning the BBL Trophy, the Newcastle Eagles will contest the first final of the 2020-21 season.
They earned their place in the BBL Cup Final after a hard fought but deserved victory over fierce rivals Leicester Riders on the Riders’ home court last night in dramatic style.
Newcastle will now face London Lions in the final next Sunday 24 January at the University of Worcester Arena live on Sky Sports at 15:30.
The Lions who had mauled Eagles in the Championship just last Friday were granted their place in the Cup Final when a COVID-hit Manchester Giants had to forfeit the other semi-final. That also meant a change of venue for Newcastle’s game.
That venue was in Leicester after the drawing of lots decided the location of what had to be a hastily re-arranged game. Many thought it may have given the Riders an edge. But in these days of games being played behind closed doors in front of no fans it didn’t prove decisive.
Games between these two heavyweights of the British basketball scene are invariably tight, close, and exciting affairs and last nights was no difference. The two sides had met earlier in the competition in the Group stages both winning on each other’s court.
So even where those two games, both sides recording six-point margins of victory that there was never any doubt that last night’s game was going to be anything other than close. So, it proved with Newcastle continuing the trend to take the road win and secure their Final place.
The Eagles included new signing Shore Adenekan in their line-up but unsurprisingly he played limited minutes in his debut having just joined the team. In the end it was the starting five and three of those starters in particular that guided Newcastle to victory.
Evan Maxwell led all scorers and added in 8 rebounds to his points total. Justin Gordon had 6 rebounds and 5 assists to support his contribution and the BBL’s Player of the Month for December, Cortez Edwards turned in an MVP performance with 9 rebounds and 7 steals to add to his 18.
Not that the others didn’t play their part. Captain Rahmon Fletcher had 7 assists in the game despite having to sit out a large chunk of the game by his standards through foul trouble. Rex Pflueger having a solid all-round game with his team play being high on efficiency.
The Newcastle bench also outscored the Leicester bench and supported their starters in fine fashion as the Eagles conjured up a defensive masterclass throughout the forty minutes. Indeed, both teams were tough defensively and that contributed to a low scoring game throughout.
But a measure of Newcastle’s efforts throughout were that they never allowed their opponents to lead by more than two points at any stage of the contest. Meanwhile they themselves had started with a 7 – 0 run from the tip and at one stage led by nine in the second period.
Leicester though always stayed with the visitors and even led 64 – 62 in the final period. But when Gordon hit a dagger-like triple and Edwards added a deuce to give Newcastle a four-point advantage going into the final minute the game was Newcastle’s and deservedly so.
Head coach Ian MacLeod has therefore led his side to two major National Finals in only his second year in the job. December’s Coach of the Month deserves great credit for the way he set his side up for this win and the way the players responded to his call.
This will be Newcastle’s tenth trip to the BBL Cup Final, a competition they have won on six occasions. The last of those wins was in 2016-17 which was also their last appearance in the showcase event.