A Tajh Green-inspired Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles surged to victory against the Plymouth City Patriots to bring the festive cheer to another full house.
The final Vertu Motors Arena fixture of 2023 saw Paul James’ side become the latest British Basketball League team to attempt to bully the men in black on their own patch.
But this time Newcastle maintained their discipline and delivered on their gameplan to stay strong down the stretch and seal a 13-point win.
Green was unstoppable on his way to a game high 31 points as the former Manchester Giant towered over the non-plussed Patriots.
The US star did it all — dunking, crashing the boards and sinking a series of arcing triples to leave Plymouth’s defence at sixes and sevens.
And the visitors closed out at a frustrating night with two players benched and their pride well and truly dented ahead of Saturday’s hotly anticipated rematch.
Both Mason Faulkner and Jules Dang Akodo fouled out in the final quarter with team-mates Spencer Levi and Elvisi Dusha fortunate not to follow.
By contrast a short-handed Newcastle finished the game with a full complement of players — head coach Marc Steutel even treating home fans to a rare glimpse of young guns Sauveur Kande and Sam Mamuini.
Prior to tip off the Eagles added all-action starter Devin Whitfield to their injury list after the former G Leaguer tweaked a hamstring in practice.
And with both former Plymouth favourite Will Neighbour and Scott Spencer out of action for several weeks, the Patriots must have sensed an opportunity.
But a lightning start and a composed finish — underpinned by Green’s first 30-point haul of the season — was enough to blunt the aggressive visitors.
Guards Jordan Johnson (21), Larry Austin Jr (12) and Rickey McGill (8) all came close to bagging double doubles as Newcastle set about spreading the play and stretching the floor.
McGill — who finished the game on four fouls — may have had an off night when it came to shooting but the ex-Patriot dished up 10 assists and forced a sensational six steals.
Johnson added seven assists and seven rebounds while Austin Jr hauled down eight boards on a night when Steutel’s three-guard rotation wreaked havoc.
Newcastle stormed into a 6-0 lead and took an eight-point advantage into the first quarter break.
The Eagles led 49-42 at the half despite an increasingly influential TJ Atwood keeping Plymouth in touch.
A monster Green triple opened up an 11-point advantage midway through the third and it was the in-form forward’s crowd-pleasing slam that fired the hosts 79-67 in front at the start of the fourth.
Faulkner’s premature exit piled the pressure on the fast-fading visitors and another Green three-pointer put the game to bed as Steutel’s men established a 17-point lead with six minutes to play.
Tickets are on sale now for the Eagles’ first home game of the new year next Friday night when Manchester Giants visit in the 2024 British Basketball League Trophy group stages. Book your seat now on the box office before it’s a back-to-back sold-out Vertu Motors Arena.