Marc Steutel has paid tribute to those players who carried Team Northumbria to the brink of a victory against all odds in Manchester.
However, the furious playcaller admitted he felt let down by officials who ordered off SIX players as a feisty first quarter descended into chaos.
Steutel lost four of his five starters as the referees dismissed Jack Preston, Malcolm Smith, Tom Devitt and Lewis Champion.
Hosts Manchester Magic found themselves without Stefan Gill and Ryan Lewis as a result of the same incident.
And although Steutel admitted his players weren’t entirely blameless in every instance, he felt the matchday officials over-reacted to a situation that reflected the competitive nature of a fiery top flight clash.
“I am so proud of the team after Sunday’s performance,” said Steutel following a dramatic 81-76 overtime loss.
“However, I am beyond disappointed with the management of the game by the officials. To have four of my starting five removed from the game in the first quarter, for responding to unnecessary behaviour from one of the Manchester players, is hard to take.
“After that setback the players left out there continued to battle and apply themselves as best as they could and fell just short in overtime. We will reflect on the game and try to move forward ahead of this week’s games.”
To lose six players inside the opening quarter is unprecedented at any level of basketball.
However, TN responded angrily to Gill’s heavy-handed challenge on Preston – a coming together that left the latter flat out on the court.
Smith waded in as he attempted to protect his injured team-mate before Devitt leapt from the bench to make his feelings known.
“Technically Tom should have been ejected as he left the bench,” added Steutel. “Those are the rules. However, the officials also dismissed Lewis for the same offence and he never even left the bench.
“Malcolm got mixed up in it all but I have no idea why Jack was ordered off. He was the victim and was lying on the ground trying to protect himself as players from both sides got involved.”
TN must wait to discover whether there will be further repercussions in the wake of an ugly incident. However, the focus must be on Saturday’s energy-sapping road trip to Worthing.
And Steutel will be looking for a repeat of the club’s 89-54 win against Lancashire Spinners – a fixture TN controlled from start to finish.
“Overall I was pleased with that performance,” added Steutel. “We had six players score in double figures and no one played more than 20 minutes so it really was a positive, balanced effort from the whole team.
“That’s what we’re all about and I’m sure we can give a good account of ourselves down in Worthing.”
Report by Simon Rushworth