Josh Ward-Hibbert insists the best is yet to come from Seriös Group Newcastle Eagles as the men in black prepare for a season-defining stretch of games at home and abroad.

Josh Ward-Hibbert insists the best is yet to come for our Eagles team. (Photos: Gary Forster)

Friday’s homecourt clash against Manchester Giants tips off an energy-sapping run of eight matches in just 23 days.

But Ward-Hibbert believes Newcastle can take plenty of positives from a narrow loss to European heavyweights Bakken Bears, after predicting an upward curve for a full-strength roster.

“There’s a lot of positives to focus on right now,” said the Great Britain guard, who bagged an impressive double double against the Danes in his first game back since international duty.

“I don’t think we played our best game against Bakken and I guess a lot of the guys headed to the locker room after the final buzzer believing they could have performed better.

“But knowing that, after going down by just five points in the quarter-final first leg, should fill us with confidence.

“Collectively we can play a lot better and I’m sure we will.

“We’ll take a closer look at how the Bears came out and be better prepared for the trip to Aarhus.

“We’d rather not be down by five but based on how we got stuck in, even when things weren’t going our way, I’d suggest it’s all to play for.

“We’re excited to move onto the second leg and give Bakken our very best.”

Ward-Hibbert added 12 boards to his 12 points as Newcastle slipped to a 92-87 loss in Friday’s European North Basketball League (ENBL) quarter-final first leg.

But things could have been so much worse for the Eagles as Bakken opened up an 11-point lead with just 133 seconds on the clock.

Guards Rickey McGill and Jordan Johnson emerged from a much-needed timeout to launch a thrilling rearguard action and keep the Tynesiders’ ENBL hopes alive.

Rickey McGill against Danish side Bakken Bears. (Photos: Gary Forster)

But Ward-Hibbert refuted the suggestion that last month’s international break had turned out to be a potentially damaging momentum killer following four big wins on the bounce.

“The breaks are breaks and it’s not just us who has to deal with that — every team across Europe’s in the same position,” he added.

“The Bears were exactly the same and so we’re not looking for any excuses in that respect.

“Sometimes it happens that things don’t always click on the floor but we came through it and we’re still in contention.

“We worked hard to get to this point and put ourselves in a position to contest the ENBL playoffs.

“We’re where we want to be at this stage of the season: competing on two fronts and with room to improve.”

Of all Newcastle’s European opponents this season, a powerful Bakken roster coped best with the Eagles’ default run and gun game.

The Danish champions and current league leaders — an 18-2 domestic record has laid the foundation for back-to-back championship titles — were composed and clinical in possession.

And Anders Sommer’s side put serious pressure on the Eagles at the defensive end before bringing the best out of battling MVP Johnson down the stretch.

Jordan Johnson put in an MVP performance against Bakken Bears. (Photos: Gary Forster)

The US guard hit the last nine Newcastle points as he fought his way to the line time and time again in the dying seconds.

But Ward-Hibbert knows Steutel’s men need to sharpen up and reset ahead of a mouthwatering return leg in Scandinavia on March 13.

“I’m sure everyone wants to do little things a little bit differently next time out,” he added.

“I know that my attention to detail needs to be a little bit higher if we’re going to finish the job over there.

“There’s always a lot of emotion during a game so we need to go back and look at the 40 minutes in the cold light of day.

“Things will be a little clearer and I think we’ll be able to spot ways that we can disrupt Bakken’s rhythm and do more as a team.”

Tickets for Friday’s clash against Manchester Giants can be found at the Box Office.