Jack Preston has promised a professional and focused Team Northumbria will treat Saturday’s Division One rematch with Manchester Magic as a must-win clash – nothing more and nothing less.
Six players were ejected in the first quarter of the reverse fixture earlier this month.
And Preston is one of four TN stars under threat of suspension as Basketball England continues to investigate the circumstances behind one of the most bizarre incidents in the sport’s recent history.
All eyes will be on this weekend’s return fixture with the very real prospect that all six players dismissed in Manchester will be available for selection at Sport Central.
“Who knows what may or may happen to me or any of the other guys involved in the game at their place,” said Preston. “I’m completely in the dark.
“It’s not something I can worry about because right now we need to focus on picking up points.
“We lost at Worthing at the weekend and that means we can’t afford to drop any more points at home.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Manchester or any other club. All of our Sport Central fixtures have become must-win games if we’re to stand any chance of retaining our title.”
It was a heavy challenge on Preston that sparked a mass brawl in Manchester and the ejection of six players. Investigations are continuing with Basketball England under pressure to reach a conclusion prior to Magic’s trip to Tyneside.
Preston has moved on from an incident that threatened to derail TN’s title defence and he added: “There was no hangover from what happened in Manchester when we played Worthing. That’s not the story.
“Disappointingly, it was simply a case of them out-working us in every area. That’s tough to take as it’s something that we can determine as a team.
“Worthing are a good team but they’re a team we should be beating. People might point to the fact that it’s a long road trip and it is. But at our level that’s something we should be able to cope with and overcome.
“I felt we allowed them to get off to a strong start and they’re a team that thrives on momentum.
“What it means is that we have to win our home games.”
TN lost 85-76 to Worthing with Preston bagging 13 points. A massive 32-point haul from American Malcolm Smith kept the visitors within touching distance but a dreadful second quarter cost Marc Steutel’s side dearly.
TN’s Division One record stands at 3-3 and the Tynesiders are already six points adrift of leaders Hemel Storm. Saturday’s top six showdown with Magic (6pm tip) has become a huge match for both clubs – regardless of their recent history.
Report by Simon Rushworth