It was a mixed bag of results for Team Northumbria men’s basketball in their double-header weekend.
Marc Steutel’s men managed to take a slim victory against Leicester but lost out to Reading after a gruelling round of fixtures looked to have taken its toll.
TN had to play against Leicester without Lewis Champion after the point guard had to leave the court with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Reading game.
It was a convincing start for TN after they opened up a 14-point gap in the first quarter but Leicester chipped away at the Northumbria defence to stay firmly in the game.
Struggling to hit the net consistently – although Malcolm Smith and Blayne Freckleton were a formidable duo – TN were lucky to take the 75-68 win against a team that, on paper, they should have been confident of beating.
TN had an even tougher time against Reading after struggling to shut down the visitors’ offensive plays – although they did manage to close the deficit to just one point at the end of the first half.
It was a challenge to break through Berkshire club’s defence although Freckleton, Smith and Atif Russell managed to score an impressive 64 points combined.
But that wasn’t enough to stop the visitors who ended up winning the game 110-91.
It was a game where tensions were played out on the court and Marc Steutel was off the bench more than once to question the referee’s decisions.
But team captain Jack Preston believes a few more favourable calls wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
“Reading was a tough one,” he said. “We could look at the rest a little bit [the referee’s decisions] and maybe say that it didn’t have an impact but it did have an impact on us as a group.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance. We didn’t do ourselves any favours so the loss isn’t on them. The loss is on us as far as I’m concerned.
“We need to get back to playing together and playing the Team Northumbria style of basketball. Playing tough, playing hard and playing together. I think if we do that, we give ourselves a chance, but we didn’t do that in the Reading game.”
As for Champion’s ankle injury and whether he will be back in time for the next game Preston added: “Lewis hasn’t had a chance to see a physio yet but the message from him was he wasn’t able to play against Leicester.
“We have next weekend off and then we have the first round of play-offs so hopefully he will be ready by then. But we need to wait for him to see the physio before we will know more.”
Report by Natalie Martin