Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles soared to one of the biggest wins in franchise history as RSW Liege Basket suffered a shock defeat on Tyneside.
In a week of unprecedented storms, the men in black blew away their Belgian opponents to keep alive hopes of a European North Basketball League (ENBL) playoff berth.
Hurricane force double doubles from backcourt duo Jordan Johnson and Rickey McGill paced a spectacular display from Marc Steutel’s men.
The short-handed hosts lost Larry Austin Jr before tip-off as the in-form guard became the latest Eagles star to succumb to illness.
But both Darius Defoe and Malcolm Delpeche hauled themselves off their sickbeds to play a second game in just five days.
And Steutel’s five senior pros were boosted by an all-action cameo from Newcastle University’s Division One standout Justin Hopkins — the US forward bagging six points, five boards and a steal on debut.
All the pre-tip talk had been of the ultimate contrast in styles as Alex Dampier’s powerful outfit faced a Newcastle side built for speed.
And for long periods of a thrilling first quarter Steutel’s run and gun style put the nonplussed visitors on the back foot.
ENBL powerhouse Jamelle Hagins was left chasing shadows as the frustrated centre failed to make his mark early on.
But team-mate Kevin Tumba fared little better as the Eagles’ stifling approach forced Liege way out of their comfort zone.
Newcastle led 23-19 after an impressive opening period and the hosts maintained a narrow lead to the half — thanks in part to the livewire Hopkins.
Relaxed rules on roster additions in the ENBL meant Steutel was able to bolster his bench with three university prospects.
And Hopkins proved to be the pick of the bunch — a smart rebound and putback two firing the Eagles into a 32-28 lead midway through the second period.
Newcastle took a five-point advantage into the break but nobody could have predicted the explosive third quarter that blew a midweek thriller wide open.
Liege suffered an early setback just minutes after the restart when do-it-all guard Brieuc Lemaire picked up a fourth foul.
That call seemed to unsettle Dampier’s men and the Eagles took full advantage to outscore their big-spending rivals 35-24 during a period where defence was at a premium.
What was fast shaping up to be the most entertaining clash of the season took a further twist down the stretch as Liege mounted a late run for victory.
Lemaire led the charge as the visitors cut Newcastle’s lead to just three points with 21 seconds on the clock.
But when Lemaire became the third Liege player to foul out in the dying stages it was game over for one of the Group B favourites.
And the Eagles take a 3-2 record to Keila Coolbet next Wednesday knowing back-to-back European wins will put them within touching distance of a playoff berth.
Johnson, who top scored with 28 points, now sits equal second for assists in a single ENBL fixture after dishing up 13 scoring passes against Liege.
McGill wasn’t too far behind as the free-flowing former Plymouth star added 11 assists to his 26 points.
And even though Tumba finished strongly to bag a double double of 10 points and 16 boards it was too little too late from the muscular forward.
Newcastle went to the line 32 times as Liege racked up 29 fouls — Steutel’s men converting 84% from the bonus stripe.
But not for the first time this season it was the Eagles’ energy and pressure that tipped the balance in the home side’s favour as the Tynesiders forced 16 turnovers and claimed eight steals.