Marc Steutel has paid tribute to his beaten up roster after the men in black toughed it out to keep their British Basketball League Trophy campaign alive.
The short-handed Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles defeated Manchester Giants 92-78 just 24 hours after slipping to defeat in London.
And Steutel’s six-man rotation dug deep to cut their opponents down to size with five players hitting double figures at the Vertu Motors Arena.
“Toughness is what it really boiled down to on Friday,” said Newcastle’s playcaller. “I’m really proud of the toughness that the guys showed.
“When you look at where the roster is at the moment with the health and the travel constraints and the way the schedule has worked out, I don’t think we should overlook the toughness within the group.
“That made me really, really proud. It was a positive performance and a positive result and I’m pleased with the toughness that the group displayed.”
Another win at Bristol on Friday will keep the Eagles in the mix for this month’s Trophy Final Fours weekend in Birmingham.
But a lengthy injury list — with four senior pros sidelined until the end of the month — means the pressure’s on Newcastle’s fit players.
“The group knows where we’re at and everyone understands the burden on the guys who are still able to suit up,” added Steutel.
“I just think for us it’s a case of looking ahead to the next challenge and that challenge is a tough trip to a very difficult Bristol court.
“We have to win the basketball game if we want to stay alive in this competition but hopefully the group do take some confidence and momentum from the Manchester win into the Flyers fixture.
“The Giants have a very talented roster so we should take the positives from Friday’s win and build on that performance in Bristol.”
Newcastle tipped off against Manchester less than 24 hours after the final buzzer sounded at the Copper Box Arena.
But somehow the Eagles found fresh reserves of energy against the William Lee-inspired Giants to overcome a sluggish start and finish strongly.
“We have to make sure that the guys are recovered physically as best as they can be after a tough back-to-back weekend,” added Steutel.
“They need to get those two games out of their bodies and then we need to do a deep dive into Bristol’s last few games.
“The Flyers came to us a few weeks ago and showed us their identity as an offensive rebounding team so we have to find a way to negate that.”
Larry Austin Jr lit up the VMA on Friday and the US guard’s packed stat line earned a deserved MVP award.
And Steutel admitted there was lots to like about a strong overall performance from a team under pressure.
“Statistically there were areas of the game that were positive,” he added. “But conceding just 34 points in the second half was a strong defensive effort.
“I thought we looked after the ball well and managed the game well in terms of runs and personnel. There were a lot of positives and we stuck to the game plan.
“Offensive rebounding was key and the way Larry kept so many loose balls alive was great to see.
“When guys were in rhythm and guys were hot we got them the ball — we took a lot of good looks throughout the 40 minutes.”