Date Time League Season
February 4, 2024 6:00 pm Men's Championship 2023-24

Sparks will fly when Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles seek to seize the initiative in this season’s Championship series against British Basketball League Trophy winners Cheshire Phoenix.

That’s the verdict of firebrand guard Larry Austin Jr and head coach Marc Steutel with both predicting another feisty affair between two fierce rivals.

Newcastle head to Cheshire tonight bidding to bounce back from Friday’s frustrating loss against league leaders London Lions.

And Austin Jr is steeled for a fight to the finish after the men in black soared to a superb road win in front of the Phoenix faithful in December to tie their league series 1-1.

“We take it one game at a time and, now London’s done, everyone’s locked in on Cheshire,” said the US star.

“This Sunday’s game is between two great teams that are both well coached and well motivated. You’ll see two gritty sides that love coming up against each other.”

Austin Jr’s assessment is echoed by Steutel with the Great Britain playcaller relishing another tilt at Ben Thomas in front of a partisan homecourt crowd.

“I was really proud with how we played down at their place last time,” he said — pointing to a superb 113-91 away win seven weeks ago.

“I thought we showed great effort and executed the scout really well. That was probably the game we executed the scout best this season and the players did a really good job of taking pride in their match-ups.

“Phoeneix are a chippy team and we’re a chippy team — it’s two competitive groups and a game we’re really looking forward to.

“We had a chance to watch them play against Manchester and now we’re fully focused on the job in hand.”

Newcastle head to the North West in buoyant mood despite Sunday’s loss to defeated Trophy finalists London.

Another full house at the Vertu Motors Arena witnessed a sparkling first half of red hot hoops action in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

And with the two teams locked at 46-46 heading into the break it looked like the final result was going to be too tough to call.

But runaway league leaders Lions emerged from the locker room all guns blazing with the 34-point third quarter that blew a high-energy clash wide open.

The Eagles simply couldn’t recover as seven London stars hit double figures but Austin Jr added: “I thought we played it well.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting until the end in those games. Lions made some good shots and some tough shots but we’ll keep working.”

Steutel refused to criticise his battling men in black despite an 18-point defeat and insisted: “That result does not define our season.

“I was proud of my guys after the London game,” he added.

“It’s amazing really — sometimes you win and you think you could have done things better and sometimes you lose when you’ve given everything.

“I’m really proud of my guys and the effort they put in. I’ve said it before that London is an offensive juggernaut of a team.

“They’ve shown at times that even when they’re not 100 per cent in sync you have to play as close to a perfect game against them.

“Our effort was there and our competitiveness was there but we just needed to execute better and be a little bit smarter on some plays.

“That will be something we’ll learn from and we will get better. But I thought we competed better than when they came here the first time and that shows the growth in our team.

“We feel we have enough in our arsenal to get wins out of those situations and we will.

“Credit to London — they executed well and scored the ball well but we’ll get better and we’ll try to show that against Cheshire.

“We have a long, hard way to go but even in defeat I was proud of my team on Friday.

“We’ll get there — I know we will. But we have to bounce back and get a win against the Phoenix.”

The game is live on the British Basketball League YouTube channel with tip-off at 18:00.