Great Britain pulled off a comeback victory to end their FIBA U18 European Championship in style, beating Montenegro 70-68 to finish 7th overall. Jacob Round’s fadeaway jumper secured the win with 14 seconds remaining which seals GB’s best-ever team result.
Coach Alan Keane reverted to the starting lineup which had served GB well during the group stage, in particular against Montenegro in their opening game of the tournament.
That meant a return for Tomiwa Sulaiman, alongside Jacob Round, Kareem Queeley, Nate Robinson and Hosana Kitenge.
Despite tired bodies and facing another top eight opponent with players who have experienced senior level club basketball, GB’s players once more showed they were prepared to give it their all.
While execution was understandably off-key, Robinson’s couple of three-pointers got GB into the game but they trailed 14-25 at the end of the first.
Two more three-pointers energised GB with Callan Low and Jonathan Brown at the centre of events. First Low pulled off the steal and then presented Brown on the outside to connect the three-pointer, before both reversed roles and Low knocked it down from outside.
GB also had an opportunity after Montenegro registered five team fouls early in the quarter. A Queeley dunk tied it at 34 while Sulaiman’s fast break dunk got GB back to within 1 and a very competitive GB were three behind at the interval, 38-41.
At the start of the second half, it was GB’s turn to give away early fouls but with Kitenge battling away inside, Queeley with the transition game driving it up the lane and Robinson’s outside shooting, there were threats Montenegro had to deal with. Throughout the third quarter, there was always a feeling that despite being behind 51-61, GB were never out of the game.
A Robinson layup got the GB momentum back and the gap down to 6, with 7:32 left on the clock. Kitenge brought up his double-double midway through the final quarter and all the while, Montenegro couldn’t find an offense to respond with.
Mate Okros’s giant three levelled things at 63, with 3:46 to play. Queeley’s dynamic dunk got GB in front and once Jacob Round forced a crucial turnover inside the final minute, his fadeaway jumper nailed the clinching score to give GB the win.
Robinson finished with 19 points, shooting 50% from outside along with Queeley’s 14 points, five rebounds and three assists and Kitenge’s 12 points and eleven rebounds. Full stats are available here.
GB finish 7th overall – the best by any GB junior team in the intense competition of a FIBA tournament, building on GB U20’s retention of their Division A status.
Coach Keane told gbbasketball.com, “People back home will never know how much their support has meant to us here. For those travelling fans who came out to Riga, you were incredible.”
“I’d like to thank my staff – Ian MacLeod, Mark Jarram, Mark Dayson, Pete Daines and Paddy Waplington- and above all the players.”
“We belong in Division A. We must raise our expectations and demand more of our players, because they’re better than we think and better than we give them credit for.”
British Basketball Performance Director Mark Clark told gbbasketball.com, “Obviously, we are all delighted with this result. I’m particularly pleased in how Coach Keane and his staff approached this championship.”
“Understanding and maximising the strengths of a team of young men is difficult. As a group, they’ve stayed focussed on their objectives.”
“It is crucial to operate at Division A level if we are to take our game forward. The aspiration must be that in time , we have all our teams playing and competing at Division A.”
Source: GB Basketball