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Despite an explosive home outing on Friday night against Surrey Scorchers to get back to winning ways, the Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles did not carry that momentum into Sheffield yesterday afternoon.

For a third successive game against their closest geographical opponents the Eagles slipped to a double-digit defeat to lose the season series three to one against an opponent that is also their closest rival in the run to the end of season playoffs.

On the evidence of yesterday’s game and the one that took place in the Vertu Motors Arena nine days ago when Sheffield prevailed 87 to 77, the Eagles will certainly not relish playing the Sharks should the cards fall that way in the final reckoning.

Sheffield Sharks have now beat Eagles Men in back-to-back games. (Photos: Sheffield Sharks)

This was a match-up where one of the most free scoring offences met the League’s best defensive units and once again it was the defensive efforts of Sheffield that was decisive. There’s a saying in basketball that ‘offence wins matches but defence wins championships.’

The Sharks are perhaps not at that level in their abilities but they’ve certainly managed to keep Newcastle relatively quiet in their three wins over their more northerly rivals. Each times the teams have matched up Sheffield have scored above their average and kept the Eagles below theirs.

It all adds up to a three League defeat in four for Head Coach Marc Steutel’s side who now have to re-gather and assess their weekend’s work before another playoff rival, Caledonia Gladiators come to the VMA on Thursday night.

One thing the Eagles will be hoping for is that Jordan Johnson is fit for that encounter. Johnson limped out of this game early after contributing 12 points and 6 assists with what looked like an ankle injury. There’s no doubting that his side missed his on-court presence when he was sat on the bench.

With the point guard on the court Newcastle were +4 points in scoring and in an eight-point loss it’s huge to lose a player of his calibre that has such an impact on the way his team plays. It’s hoped his injury is not too serious as the games come thick and fast towards the business end of proceedings.

Steutel will not of course use Johnson’s absence in the crucial moments as an excuse. Nor should he. The team and roster is built to cover for each in the case of such issues. The fact that Newcastle couldn’t was as much down to Sheffield’s ability to make the Eagles take tough shots in the game.

Tajh Green and Eagles Men struggled against a tough Sharks defence. (Photos: Abbie Orwin)

Add in the power and shot selection that the Sharks showed at the Eagles defensive end and that in essence was where the ball game was lost. Sheffield making every shot Newcastle took a difficult one but at the other end seeming to be able to always find a way to the rim to score when they needed.

Eagles had actually flew out to a superb start early on in the game and had a 20 points to 8 lead with a tick over four minutes to play in the first period. But Jalon Pipkins came off the bench for Sharks to massive effect and sparked a 14 points to 2 run to level the first period.

Thereafter Sheffield continued that moment and with R J Eytle-Rock and Malik Green continually driving holes through the interior Newcastle defence they turned the game around in the next two periods so much that they led at one stage in the third period by sixteen points.

The Eagles did threaten a sensational comeback in the final quarter and got to within three at 75 – 72 but from there Sharks steadied, rallied and pulled clear once again to take a deserved win in the end. Rickey McGill’s late triple only serving to make it a single-digit defeat in the end.