Manchester Giants2024171778Loss

Short-handed Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles bounced back from an energy-sapping loss in London to throw their British Basketball League Trophy group wide open.

Marc Steutel’s men approached tip off against Manchester Giants without the big four of Josh Ward-Hibbert, Devin Whitfield, Will Neighbour and Scott Spencer.

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And the men in black found themselves 10-2 down within the first few minutes as William Lee looked to seal the deal early for the visitors.

But if Manchester were banking on a homecourt collapse, Newcastle’s never-say-die six-man rotation had other ideas.

Top scorer Jordan Johnson inspired Eagles to a well deserved victory. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Only Darius Defoe failed to hit double figures on a night when the Eagles’ togetherness and total team basketball cut the Giants down to size.

And an astute gameplan was carried out to perfection as the hosts stayed in touch at the half before stretching out to an unassailable 14-point lead with 10 minutes on the clock.

Steutel’s trademark three-guard line-up ran riot as Jordan Johnson, Larry Austin Jr and Rickey McGill combined for 56 points.

Rickey McGill provided 8 assists to help the Eagles win their first trophy game. (Photos: Gary Forster)

But for the second home game running it was Tajh Green’s all-action display that captured the imagination of another vocal Vertu Motors Arena crowd.

The in-form forward added seven boards and a brace of steals to his 23 points.

And yet even Green couldn’t eclipse do-it-all team-mate Austin Jr as the electric guard scooped the MVP honours.

The former Cheshire Phoenix favourite packed the stat line as he sought to cover every inch of the Eagles court.

Austin Jr bagged 19 points, 11 boards, six steals and four assists and it was the US star’s hustle and focus that sparked a famous backs-to-the-wall win.

Larry Austin Jr. put in an MVP performance against Giants. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Newcastle recovered from that slow start to lead 27-20 after the opening 10 minutes but the tables were turned as Manchester reduced the deficit to a point at the half.

The hosts hit back throughout an explosive third period and always kept the Giants at arm’s length down the stretch.

With the pre-game injury report offering little hope of reinforcements any time soon it will be down to the same six senior pros to keep the Eagles Trophy dream alive when Steutel’s men travel to Bristol next Friday.

But on the evidence of a gritty display paced by power and precision, it would be foolish to bet against a depleted roster determined to flourish in the face of adversity.

And the Flyers should beware former favourite Malcolm Delpeche following last night’s under-the-radar cameo — the Newcastle star adding four rebounds, three steals and three blocks to his 11 points (including five from five from the field) inside 17 minutes.