Manchester Giants are left needing two victories from their final two games to guarantee a place in the BBL play-offs.
Manchester Giants’ brave effort could not stop the Newcastle Eagles juggernaut rolling ever onwards.
The Geordies’ win at their Sport Central home saw them seal yet another BBL title and retain the crown they won last year.
The Giants were beaten by 39 and 30 points respectively in their two earlier meetings this season, so a 10-point loss to the best team in the land was no disgrace.
Defeat however, leave Jeff Jones’ men needing wins from their final two games - at Sheffield tomorrow (FRI) and at home to London Lions on Sunday - to make certain of claiming a play-off place.
That’s assuming rivals for the final post-season spot Bristol, win their last game of the season against Leeds - by no means a certainty.
But all the Giants can do is focus on their own task - and Jones says they go into Friday’s War of the Roses set-to with their old Steel City rivals buoyed by their performance against the all-conquering Eagles.
“They was some really positive stuff from our performance,” said Jones.
“I thought Callum (Jones) had possibly his best game for us, especially defensively and Stefan Gill really stepped up scoring-wise.
“Devin Grimes did a great job as well on one leg and Rob Marsden is getting better.
“The guys gave a great effort and we played a very good team well. They have four good Americans and a real talent in Andy Thomson.”
They took the opening period 32-21 and the Giants were playing catch-up from their on in.
The teams tied the second 30-30 and despite going down by as much as 17 points in the third, the Giants clawed their way back into the game to go into the fourth quarter just eight points behind at 81-73.
Gill hit 13 of his 25 points in the third as he rediscovered his shooting touch with a trio of threes.
In the fourth another Gill three cut the home team’s lead to seven but it was as close as the Giants could get.
Eagles’ threat was made in Manchester with locally-born brothers Stuart and Andy Thomson combining for 45 points with 23 and 22 respectively.
The Eagles had five men in double figures and the Giants did too with Gill leading the way with 25 off 6/8 three-point shooting, while Callum Jones had 22 and nine rebounds and Rob Marsden had 20 and nine boards.
Grimes had 15 and nine rebounds Ingus Bankevics managed 10 despite his three-point touch deserting him (0/8).
But starters Ben Eaves (5) and David Watts (0) had off-nights scoring-wise.
Giants won the battle of the boards 46/33 but the Eagles superior shooting (54%/49%) and the success from three-point range (11/23 versus 7/21) win them the game.
Giants will need to be firing on all cylinders for their next two vital games.
“Everyone is tired but we have got to keep going and get Friday and get Sunday,” said Jones.
GIANTS: Gill 25; Jones 22, 9rbs; Marsden 20, 9rbs; Grimes 15, 10rbs; Bankevics 10; Eaves 5.