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The Newcastle Eagles clinch a record seventh BBL Playoff title by beating the London Lions 68-66 in Leicester to conclude the 2020/21 BBL season



In a game which saw the no.1 and the no.3 highest scoring offences in the BBL face off, there was an expectation for a free flowing, high scoring affair to take place. Nevertheless, a cagey, streaky scoring final was what ensued as the Newcastle Eagles came from behind yet again, to edge the lions 68-66 and win the BBL Playoff Final.

Throughout ‘May Madness’ the Newcastle Eagles had made a living off comebacks. In the Quarter Finals, they overcome a 14 point 4th quarter deficit in the 2nd leg against the Sheffield Sharks to draw the game 81-81 and win the series by the slimmest of margins, 2 points. This setup a semi-final tie against League Champions the Leicester Riders where again the Eagles conjured up a miraculous comeback. The Eagles lost the first leg 77-76 despite being down 68-52 at the end of the 3rd quarter. This setup a winner takes all clash in the 2nd leg where the Eagles reigned victorious to set up the finals clash with the London Lions.

Through the Playoffs, Newcastle had been led by veteran guard Rahmon Fletcher who has averaged 22 points per game (ppg) with 8.5 assists over the playoffs. The 2x BBL MVP was instrumental with both a 34 point and a 27 point outing in the previous series against league champions the Leicester Riders.

As for London, former Cleveland Cavalier Deandre Liggins was boasting 17 ppg along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists in playoff action. The Kentucky alumni was coming off a 23 point outing which led the Lions in overcoming a 12 point 1st leg defeat to the Plymouth Raiders to make the final.

However, the Lions were left without star guard Justin Robinson who missed out through injury. Robinson scored 20 points with 7 assists in just 24 minutes of action in the semi-final second leg before exiting with an ankle injury. The 2x MVP proved to be a big loss for London based side who struggled to create consistent offence in the second half of the season finale.


1st Quarter

Expecting a high scoring affair, it was the London Lions who were out the blocks quickest. On the first possession Bosnian big Fahro Alihodzic grabbed an offensive rebound before Orlando Parker grabbed a second and took a trip to the free throw line, going 1 of 2. The Lions continued to smash the offensive glass and Parker continued to score, with 15 points by the end of the quarter.

Newcastle’s quarter was a tale of turnovers and poor interior defence. The lack of execution on the offensive end saw the Northeastern side struggle to get going. Veteran guard Rahmon Fletcher had an uncharacteristic quarter as he struggled against the length of  Deandre Liggins and Dirk Williams, resulting in 4 turnovers for the Kansas native.

That being said, Eagles wing Louis Sayers managed to keep the quarter somewhat respectable by making two three-pointers, accounting for 6 of their 12 points in a quarter where good looks were at a premium. Their half got even worse when Fletcher picked up his second foul for an offensive charge as the quarter drew to a close. He joined Justin Gordon as two of the Eagles starters on 2 fouls.

The 1st quarter ended 24-12 to the Lions with the London club out hustling and out working the opposition. The Lions size and length had caused problems on both sides of the ball for the Eagles who struggled to keep Lions forward Parker in check. The BBL Cup winners Newcastle, needed a strong second quarter showing to stay in touch.


2nd Quarter

The 2nd Quarter was a much more positive showing for the Eagles who began the quarter on an 11-0 run bringing the game to within 1 point. Cortez Edwards played a huge role for the Eagles with a stat line of 5 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, a block and a made three-pointer in the quarter. The stat sheet stuffer managed to make an impact on and off the ball to help the Eagles muster a comeback.

Fletcher also began to get going, taking the ball to the hole to force Lions coach Vince McCauley into a timeout at 24-18. He later added 5 more points, including a heavily contested three over two Lions defenders to beat the buzzer.

Despite this, Parker continued to add, making an open mid range to spark a 9-0 run for the Lions in response. He finished the quarter with 19 for the half with the game sat at 35-30 to the Lions.

Offensive rebounding proved to be the story of the half as London dominated grabbing a massive 14 offensive boards. Nevertheless, they had struggled shooting from deep only making 4/18 three point attempts compared to the more efficient 4/10 for the Eagles.

It was very much a tale of two quarters with both sides struggling to score throughout, leading to a low scoring affair at the half.


3rd Quarter

The third saw an offensive pickup for both sides.

Deandre Liggins began the quarter with a deep two-pointer for the Lions. Liggins who had been constant on defence, had struggled in the first half going 1/5 from the field. Nevertheless, the former Cleveland Cavalier began to step up in providing some well needed help to Parker who was doing an excellent job in filing the scoring void of injured MVP guard Robinson.

Despite this, it was Cortez Edwards who continued to catch the eye, contributing 12 points as he attacked the rim trying to get a grip of the game. He continued his strong first half showing, providing a secure secondary ball-handling option to that of Fletcher, who had struggled downhill against the Lions defence.

Evan Maxwell also stepped up off the bench, profiting on the minutes of Justin Gordon who continued to sit after gaining his fourth foul of the contest. The big provided a solid inside presence but also displayed capabilities in switches on the defensive end to help limit the loss of Gordon.

Gordon wasn’t the only man in foul trouble. Lions wing, Dirk Williams continued to see his time depleted with Kevin Ware and Jules Dang Akodo sharing his minutes as neither side managed to pull away by the end of the third.

The quarter concluded at 55-50 to London Lions.


4th Quarter

In a game of offensive runs, the 4th got going with a Edwards three point play which led to a 7-0 Eagles run to take the lead. An immediate response saw Parker add two to level, before Sayers restored the Eagles lead with a corner three.

A cagey contest followed with missed outside shots from Maxwell and Fletcher as the Eagles failed to pull away. Nonetheless, turnovers on both sides remained unpunished as the seconds ticked away. Eagles remained in front until Williams and Alihodzic added for the Lions.

Shortly after Williams was sat after being awarded his 5th and final foul of the afternoon.

Newcastle began to hit the offensive glass hard with Edwards and Maxwell, with the latter fouled resulting in him hitting both free throws, putting the Eagles up 64-61 with 4 minutes on the clock.

As the game seemed to be slipping from the Lions grasps, Liggins stepped up and drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc to level. A big time play from the man with the big reputation after playing alongside Lebron James in Cleveland.

The sides traded with deuces to level at 66-66 before Edwards stepped up yet again to make the go ahead free throws with 46 seconds to go. Nevertheless, chances remained as Liggins and Dang Akodo both missed go ahead buckets, as did Newcastle as both Maxwell and Fletcher went scoreless at the free throw line, all within the last minute.

Fletcher’s visit on 2.7 seconds saw his second miss result in a rebound and full court heave from Liggins to beat the buzzer, but it wasn’t to be for the men from the capital as the Eagles edge the Lions 68-66 to clinch the BBL Playoff title.


BBL PLAYOFF MVP – Cortez Edwards

The former Southern Miss Guard Cortez Edwards played a giant role in carrying the load for the Newcastle Eagles. Edwards dominated both sides of the ball dropping 22 points on 7/12 shooting alongside 4 steals. The MVP dished 7 assists to compliment his shooting as well as 13 rebounds, 5 of which came on the offensive end. Not bad for a man who stands at only 6ft2. He made the difference for a side who saw key players Rahmon Fletcher and Darius Defoe struggle to get going on offence, as well as Justin Gordon who spent the game in foul trouble.


The BBL is on the way up

As the curtain came down on another exciting BBL Season, the Newcastle Eagles edge the London Lions to add a record seventh BBL Playoffs title to their already prestigious trophy cabinet. In a season of chaos, the BBL and Sky Sports have done an excellent job in bringing the premier basketball league in Britain to our screens, where we witnessed our very own Orlando Bubble’ with ‘May Madness.’

This season has left me as eager as ever for more BBL action.

As the game grows in the UK, the demand for a strong domestic league does too and judging by the previous season there’s an awful lot to like about the BBL and the direction it’s heading. So roll on the tip off for the 2021/22 BBL season and hopefully another year of great basketball.


We hope you enjoyed the article ‘BBL PLAYOFF FINAL: EAGLES EDGE THE LIONS.’ Let us know which BBL players have impressed you this last season?


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Joe O'Shea is a passionate sports fan who's recently joined the team at Sporting Ferret. Joe has recently graduated Manchester Metropolitan University with 2.1 honours in History and International Politics but is looking to transition into Sports Journalism at the postgraduate level in the near future. New to the game of sports writing, Joe will bring his sporting obsession as both a fan and a player to his writing. Joe specialises in Basketball in which he represented Manchester Metropolitan University. Other favourites include Rugby Union and Football but Joe also has strong interests in Formula 1; Darts; MMA and Horse Racing. Joe is also a long suffering Cheltenham Town fan and Gloucester Rugby supporter, his home town sides, as well as having a keen eye on Munster Rugby due to his family heritage in Cork. He is also a big supporter of the LA Clippers and resident member of the Al Boum Photo fan club. Contact: [email protected] Twitter: Joe_OShea25


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