London Lions Women2626 181686Win
Newcastle Eagles Women81212537Loss

Newcastle’s mission impossible proved predictably unmanageable as the most talented women’s team in WBBL history put the hapless Eagles to the sword.

London Lions were merciless in their dismantling of Noelia Cacheiro’s ragged roster on a bad day at the office for the vanquished visitors.

But playoff quarter-final defeat to the wealthiest club in the WBBL shouldn’t detract from what was an otherwise encouraging campaign for new-look Newcastle.

And Cacheiro heads into the close-season confident that the Eagles can lay the foundations for a top six finish this time next year.

With the odds stacked against them in South London, Newcastle leapt into an early lead on the back of successive Katie Nolan free throws.

But that was as good as it got for Cacheiro’s side as the wheels quickly came off any upset bid.

Beset by first quarter nerves, a combination of lax ball handling and poor shot selection dogged the Eagles during a frustrating first quarter.

And it was game over inside 10 minutes with London looking every inch a clean sweep team — moving one step closer to adding the playoff crown to their WBBL Cup, Trophy and Championship titles.

Crucially, Newcastle turned the ball over eight times within the opening period as the Lions established an eye-watering 26-8 advantage.

And the struggling eighth seed couldn’t buy a basket from beyond the arc as all seven first-quarter three-point attempts fell short.

By contrast, former Belorussian international Katsiaryna Snytsina bookended a powerful first period with huge triples from way downtown — her third three of the quarter-final a superbly timed buzzer beater

Courtney Clasen taking a jump shot against the Lions (Photo: Abbie Orwin)

Of course, Cacheiro’s battling side had only just squeezed into the playoff picture on the final weekend of the regular season.

And the gulf in class between the two teams was never in doubt prior to tip-off.

But Newcastle did believe they could disrupt their big-name hosts using an aggressive brand of attacking basketball.

Ultimately that approach failed to materialise against a focused and well-drilled Lions’ side forced to regroup following the loss of WNBA-bound Kiki Herbert Harrigan.

And Cacheiro will be bitterly disappointed that her talented roster didn’t go for broke and make more of a free hit at Crystal Palace.

Marina Fernandez sank the Eagles’ first three-pointer of the night in the fifth minute of the second quarter.

Rachel Bland looking for a way to break through the Lions defence (Photo: Abbie Orwin)

But by then Newcastle were already trailing by 22 and on course to follow the franchise’s BBL roster out of the playoffs.

Abby Lowe’s third foul, three minutes before the break, piled further pressure on an Eagles side struggling to counter London’s pace and power.

And Lions’ GB star Holly Winterburn was beginning to boss the ball game as the triple threat guard surged towards 14 points at the half.

Newcastle could ill afford 12 turnovers inside the opening 20 minutes but a failure to take care of possession had cost Cacheiro’s team dearly.

London led by 32 points heading into the third quarter and the relentless hosts refused to take their foot off the pedal.

A 38-point advantage with 10 minutes on the clock allowed the Lions to start the playoff party early.

And it’s difficult to imagine any other team than London lifting the WBBL Playoff crown at the O2 Arena later this month.