London Lions Women2121212588Win
Newcastle Eagles Women87101136Loss

Newcastle must move on from a humbling defeat in London and focus on the back-to-back fixtures against Cardiff Met Archers that could seal a top-six finish.

Noelia Cacheiro’s beaten but unbowed side hosts the Welsh franchise at the Vertu Motors Arena on Saturday.

And seventh-placed Newcastle travel to eighth-placed Cardiff the following weekend for what could be a season-defining road trip.

The Eagles always knew they were on to a hiding to nothing against the WBBL Trophy winners and favourites to lift this season’s league title.

But the gaping margin of defeat could have been far narrower had the visitors managed to convert a fraction of the missed chances that allowed London the easiest of rides.

Newcastle shot just 22 per cent of their field goals — converting three of 22 triples — on a day when the Eagles’ offence deserted them.

(Photo and featured image: Abbie Orwin)

And the women in black will have to sharpen up in possession against the Archers next weekend if they are to carry any momentum into the playoffs.

Coach Cacheiro arrived in the capital blessed with multiple options and her strongest squad of the season.

Both Katie Nolan and Zoe Willis returned from injury to bolster the playoff-chasing visitors.

And an exciting starting five featured an in-form Courtney Clasen and fully fit Abby Lowe as the Eagles’ play-caller shuffled her pack.

But many of Europe’s strongest sides have fought and failed to contain a London roster boasting a plethora of global stars.

And even Newcastle’s deepest team to date knew Stella Kaltsidou’s side would represent the toughest of regular season tests.

So it proved as the hosts stormed into a 42-15 lead at the half.

Led by the irrepressible Kiki Herbert-Harrigan, the Lions gained an immediate stronghold in the paint and rarely slackened their grip.

Both Nette Lewis and Chloe Gaynor hit early foul trouble against one of the most physical teams the WBBL has ever witnessed.

And Trophy final MVP Herbert-Harrigan, the WBBL’s reigning player of the month, raced to nine points in nine minutes as the hosts opened up a 21-8 first-quarter lead.

Abby Lowe in action at the Copper Box Arena in the game again the London Lions (Photo: Abbie Orwin)

But in truth the one-sided scoreline flattered title-chasing London as Cacheiro’s side did everything but finish under the basket.

The fired-up Eagles went toe to toe with the Lions for the majority of a hard-fought opening period but a failure to convert under the glass cost the Tynesiders dearly.

Newcastle finished just three of their 10 two-point attempts during the opening 10 minutes.

And a shocking display of shooting went from bad to worse before the break as Cacheiro’s side headed to the locker room shooting just 18 per cent from the field.

Herbert-Harrigan, the former Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm star selected sixth in the 2020 WNBA draft, had moved to 16 points to lead all scorers.

But it was Holly Winterburn’s 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists that caught the eye inside the Copper Box Arena.

And Newcastle were faced with the proverbial mountain to climb as they sought to eat into a 27-point deficit at the half and show something — anything — at the offensive end.

Courtney Clasen trying to break down the resilient Lions defence (Photo: Abbie Orwin)

The Eagles did, at least, hit double figures in a quarter for the first time during the third period.

But in the face of a relentless Lions’ offence, it was a small win in expectation of a heavy loss.

The Lions led 63-25 heading into the fourth quarter before closing out a comfortable victory — the club’s 15th Championship win of another sensational season.