Leeds Carnegie basketball: Newby targets play-off title

Leeds Carnegie basketball director of coaching Matt Newby gives a team talk.
Leeds Carnegie basketball director of coaching Matt Newby gives a team talk.
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Leeds Carnegie director of coaching Matt Newby says victory in this weekend’s National League play-off finals would be just reward for the hard work and diligence of everyone involved in the developing basketball programme.

The team that moves up to the elite-tier British Basketball League next season heads to Manchester today for the English division’s Final Four play-off finals.

It is only the second time in their brief history that they have reached this stage and a victory in the final tomorrow night would be the perfect closing chapter on their time at the level.

“Winning the title would be the icing on the cake,” said Newby, who has been involved in a programme that has close links with Leeds Met University since its inception in 2006, and has been the driving force behind its move up to the big leagues from next season.

“It’s been a long journey in terms of where we started and where we stand now, and I’m proud of the achievements made. Win or lose this weekend, we can walk off the floor with no shame in what we have accomplished.

“If we were to win it all and walk off the court with the No 1 piece of silverware, it would be a fair reflection on all the hard work, diligence and desire put in by everyone within the programme.”

Leeds face Essex Leopards at 6pm tonight in the second semi-final at the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester. Bradford Dragons take on League, Cup and Trophy winners Reading Rockets in the earlier semi-final. The final takes place tomorrow.

Two years ago, Newby steered Carnegie to the title game where they lost to this year’s Final Four favourites Reading.

“I think what we took from that weekend was that it’s not just about the games, it’s about doing everything right on and off the floor,” he said.

“Everything from prehab to rehab is important because the boys have to put in so much effort to progress to the final, and then to go again and try and win the championship.”

Since announcing in December that they had been accepted into an expanding BBL from next season, Carnegie have been a marked team in English Division One.

Opponents have raised their game against the elevated West Yorkshire opponents, a fact Newby believes will stand them in good stead this weekend.

They have already gone up a level to overcome Hemel in the quarter-finals last week, with Newby acknowledging the work of his scouting department for devising a plan that his players executed to perfection.

The prospect of the BBL next year is one that has given the programme a real lift, with planning already at an advanced stage ahead of what will be a significant step up.

But the focus these past few weeks has been solely on the present.

Newby added: “It’s safe to say we’ve been keeping our eye on all aspects of what will be required next season and beyond, but this weekend and in the last few days the focus of the players and everybody here has been on the Final Four – it has to have been.”