Rickey McGill led Caledonia a merry dance as Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles stunned the Gladiators on Tyneside.
The US Guard busted a full range of dazzling moves to lead all scorers with a thrilling 30 points at a packed Vertu Motors Arena.
And McGill’s magic proved too much for Caledonia’s frustrated head coach as a fuming Gareth Murray was finally ejected on the back of two late technical fouls.
A fabulous night of fast-paced hoops on Tyneside saw all five Newcastle starters bag double figures.
A strong start and a blistering finish bookended a raft of mid-game highlight reels with Larry Austin Jr and Jordan Johnson at their crowd-pleasing best.
The former might have fouled out just before Murray but by then it was game, set and match for the men in black.
And Austin Jr lapped up the applause of a partisan crowd as one of the toughest competitors in the British Basketball League celebrated a job well done.
Ex-Gladiator Johnson shut out the noise around his own recent foul trouble to punish Murray’s men time and time again in the paint.
But in the final analysis a famous night belonged to the mercurial McGill as the hot-handed shooter downed four from nine from three-point range and added five assists, two steals and a perfect six from six free throws to his game high haul.
Looking to bounce back from bitterly disappointing back-to-back losses against London and Cheshire, the hosts flew into a 24-19 first quarter lead.
A nip and tuck second period — tied at 27 apiece — saw Patrick Whelan and co. begin to show flashes of the form that’s carried Caledonia to second place in the Championship standings.
But Marc Steutel will have been delighted to take a five-point lead into the locker room on a night when Devin Whitfield returned to action.
The US guard ended a prolonged spell on the sidelines with a three-minute cameo while team-mate Scott Spencer got more invaluable game time under his belt.
And with Will Neighbour close to his own return there’s every likelihood Steutel will be able to field a full team before this month’s international break.
Ultimately there was no need to stretch Whitfield against the Gladiators as the hosts exerted an impressive level of control after the break.
Murray’s last-minute meltdown underlined a growing frustration within the Caledonia camp and even ex-Eagle Kyle Johnson couldn’t turn things around.
The experienced guard was one of the few positives to come out of a tough 2022/23 campaign and was warmly received on his Tyneside return.
But Johnson’s seven points, four boards and two steals off the bench was nowhere near enough to stem the tide as Newcastle flooded their cross-border rivals with dynamic offensive plays from every corner of the VMA court.
Another win at Manchester this weekend would lift Steutel’s men back into the top four and keep the men in black on track for home advantage in the end-of-season playoffs.