The Great Britain Under-20s almost suffered a monumental collapse before Alex Marcotullio (pictured) hit a hook shot at the buzzer, to give the British side an 83-82 victory over Israel on Wednesday evening in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
With GB leading by as many as 26 midway through the second quarter, Israel refused to go away, as they won the second, third and fourth quarters, to take their first lead of the game with just 3 minutes left. From there they kept control and as Timor hit a layup to give Israel an 81-76 lead with just 13 seconds remaining, GB looked dead in the water.
However, a Van Oostrum three out of a GB timeout reduced the deficit to two with 10 seconds left. GB immediately fouled and Sztarkman only managed to go 1/2 at the line. With Israel up three, they fouled Van Oostrum who went to the line and calmly sinked both to put GB within one, 82-81 with 6 seconds left.
Israel couldn’t manage look after the ball and turned it over setting up the last possession. Van Oostrum missed a three point attempt, but Marcotullio managed to secure the offensive rebound and hit a hook shot as time expired. Cue celebrations.
Head coach Tim Lewis was pleased with the team’s performance despite giving up a huge lead:
“It was a good team performance tonight; we stuck to our game-plan down the stretch, executed well and never gave up. It’s a great example of keeping going to the final seconds, sticking to it, and it’s a huge credit to the players.
“Obviously there was a momentum swing, and a bit of complacency crept in, but the most important thing is we got the win in incredible fashion.”
Ryan Richards was dominant for GB, as he finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists. Marcotullio had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists to go with his gamewinner, whilst Devon Van Oostrum had 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists, however turned the ball over 11 times. Lee Goldsbrough finished 1 rebound short of a double double with 11 points and 9 rebounds in 20 minutes, whilst Alasdair Fraser had 6 points and 6 rebounds in just 12 minutes.
GB came out on fire, hitting their first three three pointers (two from Richards and one from Marcotullio) and two free throws to go up 11-3 on Israel after just two and a half minutes, prompting and Israeli timeout.
The timeout made little difference, as GB put on a first quarter clinic which saw them shooting 47.6% from the field, 55.6% from three (5/9), outrebounding Israel 20-7, whilst registering 6 assists to put them up 32-13 after one quarter. Ryan Richards was once again looking unstoppable with 16 points and 7 rebounds already on the board.
GB continued to pile on the pressure in the second period, taking their biggest lead 41-15 off an Adam Thoseby jumpshot with 6:26 left in the half. At this point, Israel began to put up a fight, forcing GB into multiple turnovers whilst outscoring them 23-11 over the rest of the half. However, GB still held a 52-38 lead at the halftime break, led by 20 points and 8 rebounds from Spurs draft pick Richards.
Israel continued their slow but steady comeback in the third period, outscoring GB 17-12, and putting them down just nine, 64-55 going into the final quarter.
Israel flat out refused to go down in the fourth quarter, and after a Lavie free throw tied the game at 72 with just over three minutes to play, Van Oostrum’s tenth turnover led to a Havkin layup at the other end giving the Israels their first lead of the game at 74-72 with just 3 minutes left to play.
Richards scored his 30th point to tie the game back up, but Israel’s Lavie responded immediately with two points of his own to put them back in front. Marcotullio missed down the other end, before an offensive rebound by Israel allowed Lavie to hit a three to give them a 5 point cushion, 79-74, with just 1:48 to play.
A number of empty exchanges ensued, before Richards secured his 14th rebound of the game and drew a foul. At the line, he hit both shots, giving Israel a slim 79-76 lead with just 30 seconds remaining prompting an Israeli timeout.
Israel used the clock before Timor got free for a layup to put Israel up 81-76 with 13 seconds remaining, setting up the final sequence.
GB will now face Iceland tomorrow evening as they continue their efforts to salvage a ninth place finish.