A competitive Great Britain ended their FIBA U20 European Championship in a 62-76 defeat to Lithuania, but were far from disgraced against quality opposition.
London-born Nelson Boachie-Yiadom (pictured) produced an all-round performance, with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds. The result means GB finish 10th overall in the tournament.
The two teams had met in the group stage with Lithuania enjoying an 85-74 win on their way to the quarter-finals. While Lithuania lost to Spain in the last eight, this was also an opportunity for them to peak at the end of the tournament.
Not for the first time in the tournament, Head Coach Marc Steutel opted for a tried, tested and emerging GB combination, with Boachie-Yiadom joining RJ Etyle-Rock, Jelani Watson-Gayle, Carl Wheatle and Kayne Henry among the starters.
Having dominated early on against GB in that group game, this was a very different tale with both teams probing each other’s frailties with caution. GB looked in much better shape compared to that earlier meeting and were perhaps a little unfortunate to trail by 3, 13-16.
The second quarter saw Lithuania steal a march on GB for long periods. This bastion of basketball excellence clearly has more talent coming off the production line and not just Gytis Masiulis who picked up 16 first-half points.
Throw in one or two of the darker arts for good measure and it’s quite a combination.
But most encouraging for GB’s future development was the way the players stayed in this, just before the half. Sean Nealon-Lino’s three and Fuller’s layup got GB back to within 7 with a minute remaining.
Despite big plays from Lithuania, Zion Tordoff’s layup on the last possession held the deficit to 8, 31-39, at the interval.
Lithuania’s physical, enveloping defence was determined to squeeze GB out of the game and after the break, GB’s players were being given serious tests that you only get in Division A.
Wheatle was being watched extra-closely and GB would be restricted to just twelve points in the quarter, trailing 44-59 after the third as the Baltic team took control despite Sesan Russell’s buzzer-beater.
A gap that big against a quality and streetwise team like Lithuania is asking a lot from most teams in Europe. But GB came closer than most would, with two Sesan Russell free throws sparking a 13-0 run into life. Boachie-Yiadom’s 3 pointer from the top of the key got it to within 2 and with 4:31 left, the comeback was on.
Only a 3-point jumper from Masiulis – adjudged to have beaten the shot clock – got Lithuania their lead back to 10 and the game ended in a contest.
Lithuania won it 76-62, but this was another fine display from GB, with Boachie-Yiadom leading the way, with a closely-marked Wheatle not far off another double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Despite this, GB’s 10th place is the best by a GB men’s junior team, only beaten by England U18 in 2013 – a team including Mo Soluade, Luke Nelson, Kavell Bigby-Williams and others – who finished 9th.
Source: GB Basketball