Newcastle Eagles return to the court tonight for the first time in almost two weeks as they take on closest BBL rivals Sheffield Sharks.
The Eagles have lost both league games against the Sharks this season and can ill-afford another loss tonight.
The Vertu Motors Arena will again be packed for a ‘must-win’ game for Head Coach Marc Steutel’s men against the side immediately above them in the table. Both sides though are much changed since the last time they met in October of last year.
That may be a factor in how the game plays out and was one of the points Steutel covered in his preview of tonight’s match-up.
“I think we’re ready for a game. We got back on the floor after the Bristol game at the start of last week and have tried to progress and develop as a group. Last week and this week we’ve been uber competitive in practice.”
“I think the guys are sick of competing against each other and are looking forward to getting on the floor this weekend for two tough basketball games.”
Eagles face Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday afternoon at the Ellesmere Port Sporting Village but as always the focus is on one game at a time. Once again though since the Bristol game there has been a change in the Newcastle roster.
American Donovan Johnson has left the Club to go to the A2 League in Greece and play for Amyntas of Athens. Steutel though is only concerned with the players at his disposal.
“It’s about the group that we have now and ensuring we’re doing the best we can. The extra time has meant we can get Justin Gordon acclimated and up to speed. His level of play has been really positive since his return.”
“We want to make sure we can develop moving forward and concentrate on our group. We need to hone the areas we need to improve on and get better in the positive areas of our play.”
Sheffield have made a move in their roster since that last game in October bringing in guard Devearl Ramsey and forward Tyrn Flowers as they look to hang on to the 8th spot in the play-offs.
“Sheffield are a team with Coach Lyons that has a clear identity. The time he’s been there he’s made them a very effective team and he knows the league and is someone I really respect.”
“We’ve had a chance to look at them with their new recruits. They add a couple of dimensions to the Sharks game and I can see why Coach Lyons has brought them in. It’s about us as well we’re a different roster playing a different way.”
“So for me it’s about the here and now and who can make more plays on the night to get the right outcome for their team.”
“Every team is one that we need to show, believe that we can beat. People will look at Sheffield’s position and different parts of the game. They are a talented team, good personnel, well coached but it is a must-win game for us.”
“That’s the position with the majority of our games with the position that we’re in. At home you want to protect your home court and reward our fans for their loyal support. We also want to reward ourselves as a group.”
“We want to reward the work we’ve put in in practice and the things we do by getting our rewards in the game. So every game feels like a must-win and tonight is no different.”
“We have to be solid defensively and disciplined. We have make sure we look after our match-ups and get stops which in turn will enable us to get out in the open floor and push the tempo.”
“We have to rebound and take care of the boards. They are a really good rebounding team so we have to match and better that 1 through 5 and we have to execute offensively.”
“It’s about having the right spacing, make the right play at the right time, share in each other’s success and get the ball moving.”
It seems clear that once again Steutel feels his side have put in the hard work and once again it’s about transferring that hard work from the practice court to the game night court.
The game is another sold-out tip-off at the Vertu Motors Arena, but fans without a ticket can still watch online from the BBL’s YouTube channel.