ENEA Zastal BC Zielona Gora2024142280Loss

A Tajh Green masterclass set the seal on another superb display as Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles made it three wins on the bounce.

Zastal Zielona Gora needed victory on Tyneside to progress to the European North Basketball League (ENBL) post-season.

And already-qualified Newcastle required the win to seal third spot in Group B and book a quarter-final berth against Denmark’s Bakken Bears.

Ultimately the hosts controlled another thrilling advert for European hoops — seeing off a late Gora fightback to take a 5-2 regular season record into the knockout stages.

Tajh Green ran the show against Polish side Zastal Zielona Gora. (Photos: Gary Forster)

And it was that man Green who lit up the Vertu Motors Arena with a monster double double inside 30 minutes.

The North All Star tip revealed his full range of skills to finish with 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Green was everywhere on a night when head coach Marc Steutel could afford to rest veteran leader Darius Defoe ahead of Friday’s trip to Plymouth.

Pre-game the team captain’s continued ENBL tradition with a jersey exchange. (Photos: Gary Forster)

And the Eagles rookie rolled out the play of the season midway through the final period  — rejecting a Gora attempt under the defensive glass before advancing over halfway, spinning past the Poles’ nonplussed defence and converting a trademark two.

If it was business as usual for big-game Green then the same could be said for fit-again Will Neighbour.

The experienced centre couldn’t have timed his comeback better against a giant-sized Gora roster.

But if the visitors expected Neighbour’s primary threat to be as a defensive disruptor then they hadn’t bargained for that perimeter power.

After two months on the sidelines the former London and Plymouth favourite dropped 13 points off the bench — including nerveless back-to-back triples midway through the second period that kept Gora at bay.

Tajh Green’s double-double secured him the game MVP. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Eight Eagles scorers underlined another display of total team basketball with Jordan Johnson and Rickey McGill joining Green and Neighbour on double figures.

Larry Austin Jr’s withdrawal early on looked like nothing more than a precaution ahead of this weekend’s Patriots trip.

And it appears Steutel finally has a full-strength roster after months spent battling injuries and illness.

At one stage towards the end of the first quarter Neighbour, Devin Whitfield, Scott Spencer and Josh Ward-Hibbert were all on court together — all four recovering from mid-season setbacks in time to contribute to the business end of what’s shaping up to be an exciting season.

Will Neighbour returned back from injury to face Zastal Zielona Gora. (Photos: Gary Forster)

That strength in depth allowed Defoe a rare night off but his absence didn’t matter as the men in black got the job done.

A thunderous third quarter ended any Gora resistance and McGill stayed cool from the line late on to thwart the Poles’ hopes of pushing for overtime.

Marc Steutel holds a 100% home record in the ENBL. (Photos: Gary Forster)

An unpredictable European journey gathers pace with a two-legged quarter final against Aarhus powerhouse Bakken.

That tie will be resolved by mid-March and on current form few would bet against Newcastle going even deeper into the ENBL and contesting April’s Final Fours.