Marc Steutel leads Team Northumbria into Sunday’s National Cup final convinced his roster can overcome the loss of talismanic swingman Tayo Oyefusi.
The close-season signing has been a revelation at Sport Central this season but missed Sunday’s 80-72 win at Essex Leopards.
And with his team top of Division One and within touching distance of a first piece of silverware this season, Steutel confirmed Oyefusi’s injury will force him off court for several weeks.
“Essex is a notoriously difficult place to play and we had to win all four quarters to ensure we brought home the points,” said TN’s playcaller.
“We had a setback at the end of last week when Tayo - who’s been one of our most consistent players - picked up an injury in practice.
“He’s going to miss the Cup final and will be out for a few weeks which is a blow.
“However, as a team we stepped up defensively and guarded really well.”
TN’s victory at Essex maintained a four-point gap over their title rivals with Manchester, Derby and Reading all picking up three league losses this season.
And the win means Stuetel’s men will still be top of the Division One table by the time they’ve wrapped up Sunday’s Cup final against Team Solent.
“We had to manage certain match-ups throughout the game against the Leopards,” he added. And I thought we did that well.
“We had with three guys in double figures - Siman Stewart, Malcolm Smith and Jack Preston - and proved a constant threat on offence.
“We still have a lot to work on but it’s always great to grind out a tough win on the road.
“Now the focus can turn towards the National Cup final and the guys can’t wait for that game.”
Steutel has been keen to play down his side’s final appearance since the club qualified for the Worcester Arena showpiece before Christmas.
However, it’s all systems go for TN as they seek to repeat the success of parent club Newcastle Eagles and add to the Sport Central trophy cabinet.
“The guys have taken a very professional view of things since we made the final,” added Steutel. “They knew the league took priority and turned their attention to Division One.
“However, now is the time to put all of our energy into the game against Solent and we ae going into the final to win.”