Marc Steutel insists Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles can become a formidable force in the British Basketball League after the short-handed men in black forced their way back into the Championship’s top four.
An eye-catching 113-91 win at Cheshire Phoenix on Sunday underlined the potential at the heart of this season’s remodelled roster.
And Newcastle have now beaten each of the three teams sitting above them in a league table as compelling as it is congested.
“I’ve gone on record to say that we want to be playing basketball on May 19 in the Playoff final at the O2 Arena in London,” said Steutel.
“We want to be playing in that final and winning that game on the last day of the season.
“In that respect every game up until then is important for us and that’s the attitude we take into every match.
“People who’ve seen the best of us this season know that we can be a formidable team.
“When we’re playing with the right defensive intent and tenacity, rebounding the basketball well, sharing the ball and playing at the right pace, then we’re tough to beat.
“We do have to find a way to become more consistent in those areas but I think we’re doing that.
“I’ve said this to the group and I’ll reinforce it now — even when we were going through a tough patch early on I knew this was the group for me.
“This group is the hill that I’ll die on because I believe in these players and I’ll always believe in these players. We just have to improve day by day and I’m excited to see how good we can become.”
Cheshire had no answer to Newcastle’s fast-paced, high-intensity press as the Eagles inflicted a second loss in three days on the non-plussed hosts.
Rickey McGill’s game high 37 points lit up an offensive masterclass from Steutel’s men.
But a determined defensive showing saw the Eagles dominate the boards and force 20 turnovers.
At times Tajh Green looked unstoppable on the way to a monstrous double double of 19 points and 17 rebounds.
And six Newcastle players hit double figures as Christmas came early for the Eagles’ vocal travelling fans.
“I think the effort’s been there since day one,” added Steutel. “Effort, for me, hasn’t been in question.
“At times it’s been about detail and quality in our execution — and that might have been down to fatigue — but everything about the last week has been positive.
“I told the guys after the Phoenix game that I felt that every player contributed positively to the win. That’s really important.”
Newcastle have two games remaining in 2023 before attention turns to the remodelled British Basketball League Trophy.
And while Steutel is fully focused on closing out the year in style he can’t wait to tackle a new-look competition featuring some familiar foes.
The Eagles face London, Leicester, Bristol and Manchester in the fight for a semi-final berth in Birmingham at the end of next month.
And Steutel added: “The Trophy adds a different dynamic and we’re excited to go and test ourselves in that competition in what’s a very tough group.
“There are more challenges in the Trophy — we’re away in London one day and home the next day – that we’re looking forward to.
“For now it’s about rest and recovery. Momentum is important but we need this short break for the players who are banged up.
“Everyone needs a clear week of practice and recovery before we look forward to the games on December 28 and 30. We understand the importance of those fixtures.”
Tickets for Thursday 28 December home game are still available from the box office and yesterday club officials announced the game will now be a British Basketball League tip-off against Plymouth City Patriots, following the withdrawal of ENBL opposition Zielona Gora from the post-Christmas fixture.