Yorkshireman Matt Newby takes Newcastle Eagles women's team to brink of British Basketball League history against London Lions

THERE may be no Sheffield team in Sunday’s British Basketball League play-off finals following the exits of the Sharks and the Hatters over the previous two weekends, but there is a Yorkshire presence.

Harrogate’s Matt Newby has steered his Newcastle Eagles women’s team to the unlikeliest of play-off final berths following a stunning post-season run.

Newby’s Eagles finished the regular season in sixth place with more losses than wins, but knocked off the third-seed Hatters at the Canon Medical Arena in the quarter-final two weeks ago and then shocked the second-seeded Caledonia Gladiators in the semi-final up in Scotland seven days later.

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“The girls have really dug in and we’ve got a lot right in terms of the preparation and that’s what it’s about at this time of year,” said Newby, a former Leeds Force head coach in the men’s British Basketball League who won the BBL Cup with Worcester Wolves in 2020.

Newcastle Eagles women's head coach (Picture: Gary Longbottom)Newcastle Eagles women's head coach (Picture: Gary Longbottom)
Newcastle Eagles women's head coach (Picture: Gary Longbottom)

“You need to be in form or finding form and well prepared, and that’s been the narrative.”

Newcastle won both play-off matches by just two points, restricting the Hatters to 69 points and Caledonia to just 58 in a game that went to overtime.

“We’ve definitely ridden our defence in both games,” said Newby.

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“We did a great job on Georgia Gayle in the first one and then Hannah Robb and Laken James last week; we definitely did a good job on both team’s back courts.

Action from Newcastle Eagles' win over Caledonia Gladiators in the play-off semi-final.Action from Newcastle Eagles' win over Caledonia Gladiators in the play-off semi-final.
Action from Newcastle Eagles' win over Caledonia Gladiators in the play-off semi-final.

“Our girls have been drawing confidence from the level of preparation and the level of detail, that’s been one of the things that has boosted their approach.

“Since I went in there in November, we’ve got to know each other better and confidence also comes from trust. Trusting what I’m doing and saying and trusting what they’re doing and saying and working together to get the very best outcomes.”

If they were underdogs in previous rounds, Newcastle are now huge long-shots to win the play-off final against a London Lions team who had a 20-0 (win-loss) record in the regular season, have already won the Trophy competition and made history earlier this season by winning a European competition.

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Plus the final for them is just across the capital at the 02 Arena.

“It’s a very deep roster. They’ve had a stellar year and will be looking to sign off on a high,” Newby told The Yorkshire Post.

“It’s an opportunity for us to buck the form.

“We’ll try and enjoy it but we’ve got to focus on business. As long as we are competitive we can hopefully put them in a position where it’s a low possession game where we come out on top.”

Even if they are unable to pull off what would be the biggest shock of all, it has still been a landmark run for the Eagles, one of the foremost and successful men’s teams in the British game who now have a women’s team to be proud of.

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Newby added: “It vindicates the management and ownership’s investment in the women’s game because we know it is going to take time with the women’s game. It’s been a steady build.

“A lot of hard work on the court and in the back office has put us in the best position to bring home a national title.”

On his own coaching career arc, Newby - who also runs the City of Leeds Basketball Club - said: “I’m very fortunate for the opportunity. It would be safe to say it would be one of my biggest achievements, given the context of where we were when I took over, where the team was at.

“We were behind the rest of the league, and that’s no disrespect to anyone, there was just a lot of work to do.

“I’ve seen a few highs and lows of the domestic game, I feel like this is a massive moment.”