London Lions ready for EuroCup Finals: "We're looking to win the whole thing" -

London Lions ready for EuroCup Finals: “We’re looking to win the whole thing”

London Lions are 80 minutes away from a huge achievement – not only in British Basketball, but British sport as a whole.

The EuroCup Finals begin in Istanbul on Wednesday evening before the return leg takes place at the Copper Box the following week, with London also in contention to match the best-ever season in the competition’s history.

“We’re looking to win the whole thing, you know,” said Temi Fagbenle. “That’s been the goal since we lost the EuroLeague qualifiers. And, I think we can very much do it. Just got to believe, stick together and fight until the end. That’s what we’re going to do.”

The road to the Finals:

London dropped into EuroCup – for their third successive season in the competition – after a two-legged defeat to Hungarian side DVTK in the EuroLeague qualifiers. 14 games – and 14 wins – later, they enter the Finals with home advantage against Besiktas.

It’s a third matchup with Turkish opposition in the playoffs – they eased past Bursa (with the visa controversy of the second leg) before overcoming a dangerous Kayseri side, and their biggest test was passed in beating Italian side Reyer Venice.

If you go back further, their first European game was a huge 30-point win over Gran Canaria in the qualifiers – with only Holly Winterburn and Shanice Beckford-Norton still on the roster. There have been several other big wins along the way – including playoff victories over eventual champions Bourges in 2021-22 and ESBVA in 2022-23.

The opposition:

There’s a very clear ‘big 3′ on the Besiktas roster and they have produced some big wins along the way. Like London, they fell short in the EuroLeague qualifiers, but knocked off top-seeded Bourges in the playoffs – which opened up home advantage for London – and saw off Girona in the semi-finals.

Dana Evans – who also plays for Chicago Sky – is key to the offensive machine with 23.2 points per game as the competition’s second leading scorer. The American is averaging 38+ minutes and 20+ field goal attempts with seven games of 25+ points along the way, and the Lions will be able to use different matchups to try and contain Evans.

Then there’s China national team star Yueru Li, who is averaging a double-double in the competition, but is a potential injury worry after hobbling off with a knee issue in Besiktas’ recent league game on Friday. If not at full strength, then that’s a huge advantage to London with their imposing duo of Temi Fagbenle and Megan Gustafson in the frontcourt.

Serbian Jovana Nogic is another free-flowing scorer for the Turkish side and another that logs heavy minutes in the lineup. 22-year-old Elif Bayram has been solid, and there’s also Mihaela Lazic in the backcourt, but London certainly have the edge in the depth department with endless bench options.

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