BC Siauliai94Win

Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles’ historic first foray into Europe ended in heartbreak as the battling visitors fell at the final hurdle.

Marc Steutel’s men surrendered a 19-point lead as fatigue appeared to set in during a frantic fourth quarter.

And comeback kings Šiauliai sealed the deal with the final bucket of the game to rob Newcastle of a famous road win in the European North Basketball League.

Will Neighbour in action against BC Siauliai (Photo: ENBL)

Nikolajs Mazurs’ men looked dead and buried midway through the third period as the Eagles stretched the floor and dominated the boards.

But the resilient hosts dug deep down the stretch to outscore British basketball’s most successful franchise 30-18 in the final 10 minutes.

And Newcastle must shake off a desperately disappointing defeat in time to face old foes Leicester Riders at the Vertu Motors Arena on Friday.

The men in black had looked right at home on the European stage as the visitors overcame a shaky start to carry the game to Šiauliai.

Trademark fast-break offence caught the hosts off guard time and time again with playmaker Ricky McGill and an in-form Jordan Johnson bossing the backcourt.

But it was in the paint where Newcastle impressed most — out-rebounding the Lithuanians 17-15 in the first half to take a 52-44 lead into the break.

Dangerman Tomas Pavelka was restricted to just seven points and two rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.

And the stony-faced seven-footer cut a frustrated figure as Steutel’s energetic roster got busy at both ends of the court.

Johnson raced to 18 first half points as the versatile shooter found his range from beyond the arc and proved a constant pest inside.

But the well-travelled US star was ably supported by McGill who added six assists and three steals to his five points inside the opening two quarters.

And there was further joy for the ENBL newbies as Darius Defoe emerged from the bench to play his first competitive minutes of the season.

Darius Defoe, Eagles most decorated player made his European debut against the Lithuanian side (Photo: ENBL)

British basketball’s most decorated player had been desperate to play his own part in the club’s historic first competitive clash on European soil.

And the Šiauliai faithful were treated to some vintage Defoe as the veteran forward stood tall to take a full-blooded second quarter charge.

Steutel was able to fully utilise a nine-man rotation with Marcus Delpeche and Will Neighbour supporting Tajh Green’s abrasive basketball inside.

But not for the first time this season it was a quality cameo from former London Lion Josh Ward-Hibbert that maintained the pressure on the initially hesitant hosts.

Newcastle capitalised on a slew of Šiauliai errors to drain 19 first half points from turnovers.

After opening up a double-digit lead at the outset of the third period, the in-control visitors turned up the heat.

And a neat Larry Austin Jr lay-up established a commanding 71-53 lead in the 26th minute of an increasingly one-sided affair.

The Eagles led 74-64 heading into the fourth quarter with Johnson (22), Green (13) and an increasingly influential Devin Whitfield (10) pacing the visitors.

But the Lithuanians weren’t finished yet and an alarmed Steutel was forced to call a time out within the first three minutes of the final period as Šiauliai trimmed the lead to four.

Tajh Green managed find his usual level after a disappointing night against Cheshire Phoenix (Photo: ENBL)

Just seconds later big man Paulius Danusevicius drained a free throw to level the scores and set Newcastle nerves jangling.

And the never-say-die hosts hit the winning basket in the final second of an ENBL thriller — guard Jonathan Davis beating the buzzer with a clutch jump shot to break Eagles hearts and bag a barely deserved victory.