Marc Steutel saluted his history-making Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles’ ‘complete team performance’ after the club broke new ground with a first-ever European away victory.
The British Basketball League’s most successful franchise ran out comfortable 90-74 winners over Latvia’s Valmiera Glass VIA in Tuesday’s European North Basketball League (ENBL) contest on what was a night to remember.
Rickey McGill top-scored with 18 points and eight assists while earning a place in the ENBL record books with a staggering eight steals. Jordan Johnson also impressed, falling just one assist short of the competition’s first-ever triple-double as he finished with a superb 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
They were hardly the only heroes, however, as four other Eagles racked up double-digit point totals. Steutel’s stars outscored their hosts in each quarter by dominating in the paint and effectively disrupting the Latvians’ offensive rhythm.
The win solidifies Newcastle’s position in the top half of Group B but the manner of the victory was particularly satisfying for the team’s head coach.
“I was really pleased with a complete team performance,” said Steutel, who also serves as the Great Britain supremo. “We made sure we achieved our defensive targets and got meaningful contributions from everyone offensively.”
He added of the team’s attacking exploits: “We aim for six in double figures. It’s a testament to how unselfish these guys are – playing for each other and playing the right way. This was most pleasing for me.”
What makes the result arguably more impressive is the fact that Newcastle did it without being at full strength. Guard Larry Austin Jr was unavailable for Tuesday’s game and Scott Spencer was only able to play a limited role.
In American duo McGill and Johnson, however, the Eagles still had two guards capable of dazzling fans and opponents alike. Steutel was full of praise for the pair after their impressive displays.
“Rickey was instrumental to the team’s success,” he said. “He was so disruptive defensively and did a really great job of impacting that end of the floor. He has set the all-time record in the ENBL for steals which is a credit to him.
“Jordan Johnson was one assist shy of being the first player in ENBL history with a triple-double. It’s great that these players were so impactful for us.”
The club’s debut European campaign has been a rollercoaster ride so far, with a heartbreaking 94-92 last-gasp defeat at Lithuanian side BC Siauliai followed up by back-to-back victories. Newcastle secured their inaugural continental victory by beating Czech side Basket Brno 87-81 at home on Halloween and then hit new heights with Tuesday’s composed performance.
Their biggest lead in Latvia was 19 points late in the third quarter, a situation similar to their ill-fated European bow last month. This time, however, they repelled Valmiera and closed out the game without too much trouble.
Steutel said his players have grown since their painful defeat in Lithuania and he was pleased by the way his side maintained their control late in the game.
“Basketball is a game of runs and when you play experienced European teams they are always going to go on a run,” he said. “The Lithuanian game still stings because of how dominant we were for long periods, but we have learned and moved on from that. The way we imposed our style onto the game gave me complete belief we would finish the game correctly.”
The Eagles, who have won three of their 10 Championship games, will look to jumpstart their league campaign on Friday when they host Manchester Giants (7.30pm tip-off). Their next European action will see them face CSO Voluntari in Romania on December 13.
Tickets for tomorrow night’s British Basketball League tip-off are available on the box office.