Beaten but unbowed Marc Steutel has challenged his Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles to hit Leicester Riders with the same passion, power and purpose that pushed table toppers London Lions to the brink of defeat this week.
The British Basketball League’s ‘classico’ returns to the Vertu Motors Arena on Friday as Rob Paternostro’s Riders look to steal a second win this month on Tyneside.
But Leicester face a Newcastle side that came within a possession of handing reigning champions London a shock loss at the Copperbox Arena on Monday.
Steutel’s men took an early-season thriller to overtime before finally succumbing to the EuroCup contenders’ greater strength in depth.
And the Eagles’ playcaller said: “We have to take the same passion and resilience into Friday’s game. We have no other choice.
“It’s reached the point where we have to turn improved performances into wins. That’s on us as coaches and everybody within the group.
“Monday gave our fans glimpses of the team that we’re trying to become and we’re progressing in the right way.
“But we need points on the board. We need the wins to follow.
“I’ve always been convinced that we have the ability to play the way we did in London but we just need to be better at managing momentum and runs.
“We’re taking steps forward with our identity and the players are starting to understand each other’s roles.
“Leicester is another chance to see how far we’ve come.”
Newcastle might have sneaked a famous win in the capital were it not for British Basketball League rookie Matt Morgan.
The generational college star and former G Leaguer landed nine three-pointers either side of half-time to lay the foundation for a stunning come-from-behind win.
But Steutel felt an Eagles side missing big man and former Lion Will Neighbour coped well with the home team’s multiple threats.
“Morgan is one of many weapons that they have,” he added. “When you play a EuroCup team you have to limit a lot of things.
“We did that across the board on Monday but unfortunately, at times, we didn’t with Morgan.
“There’s a reason he’s the top scorer in our league and why he’s been a leading scorer in other leagues.
“We tried hard to contest a lot of his looks and we could have done better on a few of them. He made some very difficult shots.”
Morgan’s game high 30 points might have stolen the show given London’s late run to victory.
But Newcastle posted plenty of standout performances of their own with guards Jordan Johnson, Ricky McGill and Larry Austin Jr a constant thorn in the Lions’ side.
Tajh Green put in a towering performance inside and out while Josh Ward-Hibbert’s all-round display ensured his former teammates were never allowed to settle.
That the visitors eventually slipped to a heartbreaking 109-104 loss will undoubtedly hurt Steutel’s roster.
But the Eagles head coach added: “We were the better team for the majority of the game and that’s what we have to keep in mind ahead of the Riders game.
“Of course I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to grind out the win but credit to London for making big shots at key points in the game.”
Neighbour, who didn’t travel to London after picking up a virus, looks likely to be back on the bench for Friday’s homecourt clash.
The Eagles rematch against Riders tips-off at 7:30pm and tickets are still available on the box office.