GB remained close in the first half, even taking the lead at 39-38. During the second half, the Czechs showed their class and while it never became a blow out, the difference was clear.
Prior to the game, the news came that Ali could not play due to a sprained ankle. Despite this blow, the GB U20 showed their determination in an inspired huddle and the players played with a renewed energy.
Starter Grant played a fantastic game, hitting mid-range jumpers, battling the Czech big, and grabbing big boards. Joe Hart also ran and shot his heart out.
Devon got his usual tally, in spite of the ridiculous rough treatment (only 10 times fouled against, and only one clothes-line) he continues to receive. Jesse also hit double figures in an inspired offensive display. The problem was now the 91 points given up on the other end.
Devon 20p, 3 reb, 6 assists, 4 steals, 10 fouls drawn, 33min.
Grant 18p, 4 reb, 5 fouls drawn, 38min.
Joe, 13p, 3 reb, 4 assist, 25min
Jesse, 10p, 5 reb, 2 steals, 37min.
Connor 8p, 3 reb, 4 assists, 21min.
John, 2p, 2 reb, 9min
Louis, 2p, 2 assists, 28 min
Josh, 2p, 13min.
Lee, Rema, Zac DNP—it looked as if Zac was going to make his tournament debut, as he ran to the substitution area, but then got called back at the last minute.
As most people following this blog will know, the big game happened after the GB game. If Finland won v Croatia, they would be through. If Croatia won, they would have to win by 22+points to go through, otherwise it would be GB.
In the first quarter, it was already clear that Croatia were going to win. It’s tempting to let the conspiracy theories develop, but the fact remains that Croatia won by 27, I think, and that was it for GB. It’s on to the 5th-8th place games now.
The other games for promotion were tremendous basketball spectacles. Bulgaria upset favourites Poland behind amazing play from Pavlov Ivanov. In the final game Israel v Belgium, Belgium came back from a 20 point deficit to take the lead. However, a major refereeing error with 9 seconds to go (the referee stopped play while Belgium were taking a lay up to check the clock, and then didn’t even go back to the original time) decided the game.
In spite of amazingly civilized protest from Belgium in the circumstances, Israel celebrated promotion. A tough way to end the promotion dream for Belgium.
Tomorrow’s another tournament rest day to prepare for the final classification games Saturday and Sunday. The men need to find their tournament team spirit again to make the experience a positive one.
As GB support here, we admire the men’s commitment and continued efforts to achieve one of the best GB U20s men’s results ever, in spite of these difficult losses and circumstances.
We’ve actually had a tremendous time so far in hospitable Sofia, where good food, nice weather, and friendly people are the norm. We wish the GB team could experience a bit of this culture away from their hotel and the gym.
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