Date Time League Season
May 3, 2024 7:30 pm Men's Playoffs Quarter-Finals 2023-24

Devin Whitfield has vowed to double down on defence after warning of a Caledonia Gladiators backlash in tonight’s latest cross-border skirmish.

It’s advantage Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles after the men in black burst out of the blocks to take a 1-0 lead in the 2024 playoff quarter-finals.

Eagles have the advantage ahead of the second leg at the Vertu Motors Arena. (Photos: Abbie Orwin)

And another win on Tyneside would seal a Final Fours spot with a game to spare.

But it’s win or bust for the shellshocked Gladiators after Gareth Murray’s men were humbled on their homecourt last week.

“They’re going to come out hard and we’ve got to be ready,” said Whitfield. “The guys who didn’t contribute last week will want to put that right.

“I feel like they’re going to make a lot of changes and we’ve got to be prepared for that.

“But I still feel like we’re the underdogs and as a group we feel we still have plenty to prove.

“That was the mindset last week and our attitude hasn’t changed.”

Whitfield and Josh Ward-Hibbert won warm praise from Newcastle head coach Marc Steutel in the wake of game one after shutting down Caledonia dangerman Quade Green.

Gladiators Quade Green against our Eagles at the Vertu Motors Arena. (Photos: Gary Forster)

The US star is just one of the players ‘who didn’t contribute’ north of the border — hitting a season-low six points and fouling out down the stretch.

“Green destroyed us in the previous two games and I was a man on a mission last Friday,” added Whitfield.

“I was given a job to do and I was determined to take care of him, knowing my team-mates would back me up.

“Starting the game with that mission in mind felt good. It was a lot of responsibility but I’ve had a difficult season with injuries and I just want to be out there playing.

“I take great pride in my defence and always have done. It’s something that’s in-built and something that I was known for at college.

“Win the defensive battle and we’ll win the game.”

Whitfield started game one ahead of Jordan Johnson as Steutel made one of the biggest calls of the season.

But the tactic paid off handsomely — Newcastle’s free-scoring guard entering the fray with Green already on the back foot before reeling off a game high 31 points.

Jordan Johnson will be aiming for another MVP performance against his former club. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Whether Steutel will adopt an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach’ for game two remains to be seen.

But Whitfield is right to expect a strong response from the wounded Scots.

“All I can say is that this group is so locked in and nobody wants the season to end,” he added.

“This is crunch time and we’re here to get the job done. It’s all about executing better every time we play.

“Maybe the win last week surprised a few people but we’ve beaten everyone in this league and we know what we’re capable of.

“We never worried about who we would face in the playoffs. If we want to reach the final then it doesn’t really matter.”

Tonight’s action tips off at 7.30pm with remaining tickets available via the Box Office.