London Lions vs Newcastle Eagles: The Ultimate Playoff Preview
This season has seen the London Lions qualify for the FIBA EuroCup Womens for the second straight year and clinch the league, the WBBL Cup and the WBBL Trophy chips.
Let’s not forget, Shanice Beckford-Norton also became the London Lions’ all-time WBBL scoring leader, Katsiaryna Snytsina became the FIBA EuroCup Womens’ 5th All-Time highest scorer, and Holly Winterburn was crowned the most decorated player in WBBL history.
However, all of the above must be put to the back burner now that we have finally, after 22 gruelling regular season games, reached the business end of the season… the Women’s British Basketball League Playoffs!
The 2022-23 postseason will now see the league’s top eight sides, desperate for a bite of glory, faceoff in a one-and-done/winner-goes-home/knock-out playoff format. With home-court advantage on their side, the London Lions will go toe-to-toe with the Newcastle Eagles at the iconic Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
Regarded as one of the main historic hotbeds for basketball in South London, the arena has become a fortress for the now Stella Kaltsidou-helmed London Lions. Earlier in the season, the Lions beat French powerhouse clubs Roche Vendee Basket Club, 90-79, and Villeneuve d'Ascq LM, 67-60.
Head-to-Head information: 2-0 London
The Lions put 100+ points past six WBBL teams eight times this season.
One of those teams was the Newcastle Eagles when they dominated the Geordies 123-43 at the Vertu Motors Arena. Captain Shanice Beckford-Norton’s 25 points helped the Londoners record their 3rd straight 100+ points total and their milestone-setting 50th straight WBBL victory.
In the return game at the Copper Box Arena, the Lions beat the Eagles 88-36. Player of the game, ‘Kiki’ Herbert Harrigan, contributed 22 points, one offensive rebound, and two assists to London’s offensive domination. On the other side of the ball, Harrigan grabbed two defensive boards, three steals and blocked a shot to help smother the Eagles’ advances.
Regular Season Team Stats…
London Lions: Finished the season at the top of every major statistic category:
- Points Per Game: 97.1 (1st in the WBBL)
- Rebounds Per Game: 43 (1st)
- Assist Per Game: 27.8 (1st)
- Steals Per Game: 14.6 (1st)
- Blocks Per Game: 3.9 (1st)
- 3-Point Percentage: 36.6% (1st)
- Field Goal Percentage: 49.4% (1st)
Newcastle Eagles: Finished the regular season in the bottom four of the Points Per Game and 3P% categories. But top four in Rebounds Per Game and Steals Per Game.
- Points Per Game: 66 (10th)
- Rebounds Per Game: 39.1 (4th)
- Assist Per Game: 17.2 (7th)
- Steals Per Game: 10.8 (3rd)
- Blocks Per Game: 2.4 (7th)
- 3-Point Percentage: 27% (9th)
- Field Goal Percentage: 38.1 (8th)
Ty Battle – The Low Post Specialist!
The biggest observation many in the basketball world will ask (and let's be honest… tweeting about!) will be how the Lions fare in a one-and-done situation without ‘Kiki’ Herbert Harrigan.
For those unaware, the Lions have now played two games without star ‘Kiki’ Herbert Harrigan, who recently embarked on her journey back to the WNBA. In those games, against the Manchester Mystics and the Durham Palatinates, respectively, the Lions scored an average of 94.0 points and conceded 52.5 points.
Forward Ty Battle will now be graced with a more prominent role in head coach Stella Kaltsidou’s post-heavy offence. Expect to see Battle, a low-post specialist, once again slotted into the starting five and given more touches. As seen against the Durham Palatinates, Ty Battle pocketed 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with a WBBL career-high of six steals during her 28 minutes on the court.
The former Delaware University standout’s ability to get to her spot in the low post will cause the Eagles major issues, as in their last encounter, where Battle came off the bench and shot an efficient 71% in the paint.
Protecting the Rim & the Lions’ Physicality…
In the last game, Newcastle shot an anaemic 27% from inside the arc. However, with Harrigan away from the team, the Noelia Cacheiro-coached outfit may feel more confident attacking the painted area. This is where Katsiaryna Snytsina and Azania Stewart’s rim protection will play a vital role.
Snytsina (0.9) and Stewart (0.7) averaged just under one block per game each during the regular season. However, against the Eagles, Katsiaryna and Azania averaged 2.5 and 1.5 blocks, respectively.
Although the Lions led the WBBL in team rebounds, the Eagles are no slouches in that department. The Geordies wrapped up the season in fourth place in the rebounds category and will seek to match London's physicality. This will be led by center Antoinette Lewis who averaged 10.4 boards (and shot 51% in the paint) over the last 22 games.
Sleeper Observation: Stop Antoinette Lewis!
Antoinette Lewis leads the Eagles in points, steals and rebounds. However, in the 88-36 loss to the Lions, she was held to just two points (14% FG) and three rebounds and failed to pick up a steal. If Lewis is again held to under 10 points, the Eagles will need a lot of help generating points from the rest of their starters.
However, even if Lewis and Katie Nolan find their offence as they did in the 123-43 loss, the Eagles’ bench may not provide much backup. In the first game, their bench rotation failed to record a single point, and in the return clash, their subs scored 19 points.
Players to Watch: London Lions
Ty Battle – Key Stats
The Forward leads the Lions in rebounds per game and just missed out on a double-double in the last game against the Eagles with 10 points and nine rebounds.
- 10.8 Points Per Game
- 5.5 Rebounds Per Game
Katsiaryna Snytsina – Key Stats
Snytsina (along with Azania Stewart) will be tasked with protecting the rim in Harrigan’s absence.
- 0.9 Blocks Per Game (2.5 Blocks against the Eagles)
- 42.4% 3-Point Percentage
Players to Watch: Newcastle Eagles
Antoinette Lewis – Key Stats
The center only missed two games during the regular season for the Eagles and led the team in scoring, steals and rebounding.
- 16 Points Per Game
- 5.5 Rebounds Per Game
- 2.3 Steals Per Game
Katie Nolan – Key Stats
Nolan is the Eagles' second-leading scorer and rebounder. In the first game against the Lions, the forward scored 18 points but on a very inefficient 40% (4/10) shooting from the floor.
- 13 Points Per Game
- 8.7 Rebounds Per Game