As expected The Newcastle Eagles exited the End of Season Play-Offs in the first round at the hands of regular season Champions, London Lions. But Marc Steutel’s men didn’t go without a fight showing plenty of pride and commitment in the second leg.
Indeed, in what was a very feisty affair with the referees throwing technical fouls around like confetti they almost pulled off a shock win in the Capital. They were right in the game until the final five minutes of the encounter when foul trouble put paid to their chances.
It always looked like a forlorn hope and impossible task after Friday’s first leg in Newcastle resulted in a thirty-point defeat for the Eagles and in the end that was to be proved true as Lions in the end coasted through to the Play-Off semi-finals.
Newcastle though can look back at the season and the series as one that restored a bit of confidence and justification in the team after making the end of season competition and showing some real fighting spirit.
The visitor’s had travelled more in hope than anticipation but in determined mood to try and gain some accreditation in the second leg. They almost did that with a great effort that certainly caused the home side to go deep into their bench to finally seal the deal.
That after once again Newcastle, just like Friday, they afforded their much vaunted and stacked opponents a flying start to the game. With Tomislav Zubic prominent early on and Jordan Taylor pulling the strings London took the first quarter by 33 – 19.
That gave Lions a forty-four overall point advantage to take into the final three quarters of the tie. Eagles had also been dealt another blow prior to the second leg even tipping off with Ben Mockford unavailable due to injury.
The ex-GB International guard had been sensational in Friday’s defeating netting a season-high 31 points but unfortunately he had sustained an injury during the effort and it ruled him out of the second leg.
Undaunted though his teammates showed great resolve in a second period that they dominated throughout the ten minutes. Darius Defoe gave them great leadership and Justin Gordon and Javion Hamlet added considerable support.
The Eagles refusal to go away ignited the contest as they stormed through the quarter to take it 27 – 18 and cut the gap to 51 – 46 as the side’s went to the locker room. Whilst the aggregate still looked impossible a second leg victory did look possible for the Eagles.
They showed that intent once again in the third. Hamlet seeming fouled every time he went to the basket made free throw after free throw (16 out of 17 on the day) and Gordon continued to score freely.
So much so that the visitor’s were only one point down at 72 – 71 within the last minute of the third before a Josh Ward-Hibbert triple made it 75 – 71 to give Lions a four-point lead to take into the final stanza.
Again Newcastle dug deep twice getting within two points but they just couldn’t get any closer despite valiant efforts. In fact in a game that was so close they actually never led once during the forty minutes.
The final nail or even nails in Newcastle’s coffin came around hallway through the final period. Hamlet had pulled them back to within four points at 86 – 82 but the next two plays saw both Gordon and David Cohn foul out of the game.
With the already stretched Eagles further hampered and short-handed The Lions made a decisive late 13 – 4 run to make a final score on the day a lot harsher than perhaps Newcastle’s battling performance deserved.