Layne Murphy is confident Newcastle Eagles have found common ground just in time to launch a late season push for the playoffs.
The in-form American was one of a slew of new signings hastily thrown together in a bid to bolster a depleted roster in January.
And ahead of tonight’s trip to fourth-placed Leicester Riders, Murphy is adamant the new-look Eagles are finally heading in the same direction.
“It feels like we’ve suddenly started to mesh during the last few weeks,” said the Newcastle University forward.
“We’re getting to know each other on a different level and we’re at a point where we can guess who’ll be where and when on court.
“To be able to play with that kind of intuition and togetherness takes time but we’re keen to keep building on what we have.
“The team’s getting on better and that’s starting to show on and off the court.
“I just wish it was earlier in the season and not a few weeks out from the playoffs.
“But we can still make the top eight and we’re just grateful to have that chance.”
Newcastle head to Leicester on the back of a bruising defeat to title challengers Sevenoaks Suns.
But a 74-56 loss against Cat Carr’s title challengers on Saturday was hardly the confidence-sapping defeat the scoreline suggests.
The Eagles built on back-to-back wins the previous weekend by dominating the Suns before the break.
And Murphy added: “For 25 minutes we held our own against a team that’s been together for six months now.
“They’re a tall side and they know how to win games. Then they’ve got Cat Carr.
“She just doesn’t stop and even though we made life difficult for her she still turned the game in Sevenoaks’ favour.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted but the performance gave us plenty of confidence going into the Leicester game.
“I’m looking forward to going down there and seeing what we can do against another top four team.
“I’m excited about what we can do before the end of the season and finishing in the top eight’s still a realistic target.
“Even if we finished eighth I’d relish the chance to play London or Sevenoaks again this season.
“I love playing the big teams and I love being the underdog.”
Murphy was carrying a hamstring injury when she signed for Newcastle and only just returned to full fitness last month.
Pain free and playing her best basketball of the year, the 27-year-old is proving a menace in the paint for Noelia Cacheiro’s Newcastle.
And although Murphy emerged from the Suns’ defeat icing a swollen right hand she added: “I’ll be fine for Leicester.
“I feel as if I’m playing at full strength right now and that’s reflected in my performances.
“At this point in time I just don’t want the season to end.”
Murphy let slip that the injured Dora Cipcic is desperate to return to action tonight after sitting out the last two games with an ankle problem.
The Eagles’ do-it-all Croat fell awkwardly in the final seconds of this month’s vital victory against Gloucester City Queens.
But Cipcic avoided a break and is back in training in what is a welcome boost to Newcastle’s playoff bid.
Coach Cacheiro could take a gamble on the guard tonight or opt to save one of this season’s breakout stars for next weekend’s homecourt double header against Nottingham and Essex.