Newcastle Eagles have won the BBL Play-off Final for the seventh time in their history, leading all teams in that regard, after overcoming London Lions 68-66 in one of the tensest finals in memory at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, live on Sky Sports.
Having finished fourth in the BBL Championship, the Eagles showed great resilience to come through tough post-season ties against B. Braun Sheffield Sharks and Leicester Riders, and needed every ounce of that in the showpiece game.
Newcastle trailed by double-figures on four separate occasions, finding themselves in such a hole after just three minutes, and despite a couple of comebacks they were still in that situation when the deficit peaked at 54-42 inside the final three minutes of the third quarter.
From there Cortez Edwards took over, as he scored six straight points in an 8-0 burst towards the end of the third, before he opened the fourth with the first five points and then lobbed up an ‘alley-oop’ pass for Evan Maxwell to give Eagles a 57-55 lead, their first since the opening possessions.
In total, it was a 15-1 surge in five and a half minutes over the third quarter break in which Edwards had scored 11, half of his points as he went on to be awarded MVP with a double-double of 22 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Lions weren’t done, as they came back to tie the game three times and the teams were knotted at 66 heading into the final minute. Edwards drove hard and drew a foul, icing both free-throws, and they proved decisive as a series of strong defensive stands saw Eagles through, before Rahmon Fletcher intentionally missed a final free-throw so London couldn’t call timeout and were forced to throw up a desperate heave.
Head Coach Ian Macleod spoke to Sky Sports immediately after the game, commenting:
“I’m very happy. If you’d have said it was going to be 68-66 I’d have probably said, ‘OK, what’s going to happen in the fourth quarter?’ I thought our defence was incredible, and it feels like we did a great job defending the three-point line.
“We’re three of three in finals in the most difficult year that most of us will ever remember. That’s success. What else is success to us? Themba Yabantu playing 27 minutes in the game at Bristol and not looking out of place, when he came to us at 10-years-old. There’s lots of different measurements of success. Externally it looks like trophies, and we have two of those this season.”