LIONS LEAVE BRITAIN ON SHAKY GROUND

MAP_GB_BEL_06092013_6389Great Britain came undone in the fourth period, losing 76-71 to Belgium on Friday in their third group game at EuroBasket in Ljubljana.

Joe Prunty’s men, paced by a game-high 19 points and six rebounds from Dan Clark, now must prepare for what will be another vital game on Sunday against Germany, who are 1-2 after their 88-83 loss to Ukraine earlier in the afternoon.

However they will rue how they ran out of steam, having showed enough fight and panache to come out on top in what was a pivotal contest.

Instead, their record fell to 1-2 and they are now in a battle to reach the second round.

“It came down to the final stretch,” said Kieron Achara. “They made some big shots and we missed them. That’s what it came down to.

“We missed a lot of free throws and in games like this, tournaments like this, you can’t afford to miss shots like that and that’s what cost us the game.”

The American shook up his starting line-up, throwing Achara, passed fit after a minor ankle sprain, and Myles Hesson into the fray.

“We felt that with the match-ups as well going into the game that would give us the chance to have a better start to what we’ve had,” Prunty revealed. It didn’t start exactly the way he envisaged. The new-look quintet were immediately stung, Wen Mukubu hitting a trio of three-pointers as the Lions pulled out an early 9-0 run.

Clark came off the bench, varying the available threat, and with Londoner draining a three, it began a 9-2 run which eased British nerves.

When Clark hit another three on the opening offense of the second, it cut the Belgians’ lead to 23-22. Matters got ugly. The Lions missed seven successive threes. GB were little more proficient. And gradually, they ground out chances, closing the half with a 12-4 burst, taking the lead for the first time when Kyle Johnson converted a three, and then snaring a 38-33 cushion at the break.

“We lost a bit of control in the second quarter,” admitted Belgium coach Eddy Casteels. “We lost our chemistry and, that one word we have in our gameplan, which is discipline.”

Some of that was inflicted. Hesson was sensational. Gareth Murray aside, the young Brummie has been the surprise of the summer, a real tenacious presence as a perimeter defender as well as a master at sneaking into the paint unnoticed. It bodes well for his future, which will continue this season in the German second tier at Giessen 76ers.

Toughness was needed, even when Johnson sent GB as much as seven clear at the outset of the third. Leads were handed back and forth, eight times in the period, often from the free throw line as the foul tally mounted. Prunty went small, pairing Andrew Lawrence with Devon van Oostrum. The pace was pushed. But still, the rivals were locked at 55-55 headed into the fourth.

Guy Muya has been a defensive thorn in this tournament but he is also capable of precious offensive cameos. His three put the Lions ahead once more. Clark levelled with a fourth three. Van Oostrum took back the lead. Belgium responded, edging 64-62 in front and forcing Prunty to call timeout with 5:37 left.

Prunty: frustrated

Prunty: frustrated

Hesson, calmly, tied it up again. Tension mounted. The drums, both of them wrapped in black, red and yellow, banged nervously. Muya fouled out, Achara taking a charge. Bodies were put on the line. Who would survive to the last?

Britain’s offense toiled. Axel Hervelle went inside. Roel Moors opened the gap to four, then five.

It needed a desperate late productive surge. But it never came and Moors hit a late jumper which opened up a 73-66 cushion inside the last minute.

And here would be no comeback as Belgium, led by 15 from Sasha Massot, improved to 2-1, as GB were left to reflect on 21/31 shooting from the foul line.

“In the second half in particular, we had some small lapses,” Prunty admitted. “And in a five-point game it’s one or two possessions that make the difference. A few missed assignments, a few missed defensive rebounds.”

The other Group A game saw French blow out Israel 82-63. Prunty’s side has a rest-day to get ready for the Germans.

“The big thing is understanding that we do have a big game coming up after the rest day,” the American added. “We’ll get prepared, mentally and physically, we’ll rejuvenate. We’ve got a game plan on how to attack.

“But we’ll take advantage of there being a rest day to not only recover from three hard-fought games but also to prepare for two important last games.”

Updates via Twitter Page

Notes

GB starters: Lawrence, Johnson, Hesson, Sullivan, Achara. The team went through a walkthrough and video session this morning, rather than a full shootaround. Justin Robinson and Ali Fraser did not play.

RESULTS

EuroBasket, 1st Round, Group A (Ljubljana). Great Britain 71 Belgium 76, Ukraine 88 Germany 83, France 82 Israel 63

Group B. Macedonia 89 Serbia 75, Lithuania 67 Latvia 59, Bosnia 76 Montenegro 70

Main pic: Mansoor Ahmed/BB

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