Sheffield Sharks2221232187Win

Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles’ hopes of securing a top four finish suffered a major setback as fierce rivals Sheffield Sharks stole an impressive win on Tyneside.

Atiba Lyons’ men out-shot and out-rebounded the unusually lacklustre men in black as any hopes of an ENBL bounceback were swiftly dashed.

Sheffield Sharks Malek Green ended the night as the visitors top scorer with 17 points and 10 rebounds. (Photos: Sheffield Sharks)

And Newcastle’s third successive loss suggested there’s still work to do if Marc Steutel is to hit his target of making May’s playoff final in London.

Four Eagles stars are heading to the capital ahead of tomorrow’s British Basketball League All Star Game at the Copper Box Arena.

But none of Newcastle’s talented North quartet — Tajh Green, Larry Austin Jr, Jordan Johnson and Rickey McGill — will be in celebratory mood after a tough night against the Sharks.

And a game to forget for ENBL regular season MVP McGill was symptomatic of the hosts’ errant shooting throughout.

The US guard converted just one of his 11 shots from the field as nothing went right for one of the biggest and brightest stars of UK hoops.

US guard Rickey McGill only scored a total of 6 points against Sheffield Sharks. (Photos: Gary Forster)

And although Green, Austin Jr and Johnson all hit double figures, a focused Sheffield defence never allowed Steutel’s men to hit their stride or find their fluency.

Lyons deserves credit for turning the screw on the tentative Eagles and encouraging his reshaped roster to stay strong down the stretch.

The Sharks shot 50% from the floor — in stark contrast to Newcastle’s 36% — and won the battle of the boards 44-38.

Sheffield converted 20 of their 25 free throws as the hosts missed seven of their 21 attempts from the bonus stripe.

And although the Eagles claimed eight steals and turned the ball over fewer times than their fierce rivals, the rest of the night’s numbers simply didn’t add up for a team that defeated European heavyweights Bakken Bears over 40 minutes on Wednesday.

Perhaps fatigue played a part as Steutel’s men suited up for the Sharks clash just 48 hours after an energy-sapping overtime loss in Aarhus.

But given the depth of talent now at Newcastle’s disposal, it’s unlikely the Eagles’ coaching team will look to tiredness as an excuse.

Jordan Johnson ended the night top scorer with 23 points. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Steutel had, of course, warned of Sheffield’s potential threat during his pre-match assessment of a traditionally feisty affair.

But if the hosts were acutely aware of dangermen Malek Green and Bennett Koch then they could do little to prevent the Sharks pair from dominating the paint.

Green and Koch combined for 32 points and 18 boards — the latter topping the index score with 21 ahead of team-mate Devearl Ramsey.

Sheffield led 43-32 at the half — and by as many as 19 points after the break — on their way to a statement win against Steutel’s men.

And once the All Star jamboree is done and dusted it will be back to the drawing board for a Newcastle team that simply can’t afford to slip up at home to Surrey next Friday.