Marc Steutel insists Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles can put the brakes on ‘offensive juggernaut’ London Lions ahead of tonight’s mouthwatering clash on Tyneside.
Both teams celebrated big wins abroad this week to keep alive hopes of going deep into their respective European campaigns.
And Newcastle skipper Darius Defoe warmed up for London’s latest visit with a game high 24 points at Keila Coolbet on Wednesday — timing his return to full fitness to perfection.
“Darius was exceptional in Estonia,” said Steutel. “He played with a really high level of execution and his intent in everything he did was fantastic.
“I thought he was really mobile in terms of a lot of the looks that he was getting and really efficient with the ball.
“Darius defended like he always does and did all of the things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. He did that and was still able to score all the way through.
“His performance was huge and we needed it. It was a must win game for us in terms of trying to progress in the European North Basketball League (ENBL) and he showed why he is our leader and our captain.
“When there were some tough spells in the game we did a really good job of finding Darius. We found him and he delivered.”
Defoe will relish another opportunity to knock off his hometown team with Lions leading this season’s Championship series 2-1.
The Eagles were unlucky to miss out on a famous overtime win in the Lions’ den in October but did stun the title favourites with a convincing road win five weeks later.
London overcame a short-handed Newcastle in last month’s Trophy opener but Steutel is confident his in-form roster can avenge that disappointing loss.
“Lions responded to last weekend’s Trophy final disappointment with an impressive win in Slovenia,” he added.
“It seemed like a difficult situation for them over there. They lost coach Bozic during the third period but still found a way to win.
“It looked like Luke Nelson – somebody I know well – was instrumental.
“They didn’t win the Trophy on Sunday but I still feel Lions boast the most talented roster that the British Basketball League has ever seen and they’re an offensive juggernaut.
“We have to find a way to try and slow them down and disrupt them but it’s a challenge that we’re really looking forward to and one that we welcome.
“Hopefully we can get some good recovery in, get fresh and play with the same energy we did in Estonia.”
Championship action returns to the Vertu Motors Arena for the first time in a month tonight.
And Steutel is relishing a top four clash screened live on Sky Sports, with May’s playoff final still the ultimate target.
“We’ve got to put pressure on the Lions defence and we have to attack with space, purpose and poise,” he added.
“We’ve got to get those paint touches. We have to be relentless getting into the paint and getting downhill.
“And we have to defend twofold: we have to defend their dribble drive and counter their guys who can get into the paint.
“We know their pick and roll actions are tough to defend and we have to protect the three-point line.
“But we’ve shown this season that we can cause London problems if we’re doing the things that we do best.
“We’re still trying to achieve big things this season — that’s being as successful as we can be in the British Basketball League. We are building towards the playoff final in May.”
The game tips off at 7.45pm with remaining tickets available from the box office.