Cheshire Phoenix head coach John Lavery admitted his side were outclassed by Newcastle Eagles on Sunday.
The league champions put one foot firmly in the BBL Cup final in Birmingham next month with a dominant 113-85 success at the Cheshire Oaks Arena in the first leg of the tie.
Fab Flournoy's men have been head and shoulders above the rest this season and remain unbeaten in all competitions. Their execution on offence was superb and the Nix were stymied time and time again by some lockdown defence as the Tynesiders helped themselves to a 28-point advantage to take into the second leg.
Cheshire did start well, though, and matched their visitors blow for blow in a pulsating opening quarter that the home side shaded 32-29. But a 9-0 stretch at the start of the second put Newcastle in the driving seat and they never looked back
Lavery said: "We got outplayed. It was fairly close in the first quarter but second quarter I thought we were poor. They stepped up and showed their class and quality.
"All credit to them they came in and outplayed us. They are not the British champions for nothing and they're unbeaten this year and their quality shone through. It was a tough night for us.
"The first quarter I thought we were in the game. We went in at half time 10 down and even going into the fourth quarter we said if we can just keep chipping away at their lead the game wouldn't be won or lost tonight (Sunday).
"We were trying to motivate the guys but it was a tough Newcastle team to play."
Rahmon Fletcher led all scorers with 28, one of six Newcastle players to reach double figures. Akeem Ellis' 19 paced Cheshire, for whom Jeff Dirkin hit 15 and Jordan Williams 14. The standout individual display for the Nix came courtesy of Danny Huffor, with the former Glasgow Rocks man accounting for 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Despite needing an effort of Herculean proportions to stand any chance of making the final, Lavery insisted that Friday's return leg at Sport Central (7.30pm) wasn't a dead rubber and that the main objective would be to win the game, a feat nobody has yet managed against the Eagles this season.
Lavery said: "We are going to go in and our first objective is to win the game. It is like everything, we are going to address what happened tonight and go into Friday, try and win the game and see what happens after that."
One positive from an otherwise disappointing evening was the return of veteran club skipper David Aliu from injury, with the 34-year-old Liverpudlian playing 20 minutes off the bench, knocking down two threes and pulling in two rebounds on his comeback.
"The injury he had was tough and we everything we could to get him through that," said Lavery, whose Cheshire side entertain Bristol Flyers at the Cheshire Oaks Arena on Sunday (5.30pm) in the BBL.
"It's a day by day thing with David and it's not going to happen overnight. We probably won't see the real David Aliu until January time, though."