Belgium 100 Great Britain 101 (after OT)
It must have been extremely difficult for Belgium to prepare themselves for this game. They had to wait almost 24hours to receive the result of their official match protest (doesn’t seem to be reported by FIBA itself) after the travesty with the clock in their game v Israel.
The result as expected. Game stands, Israel promoted and in the semi. It was clear that Belgium would come with a point to prove. The teams know each other well, Belgium having hosted the GB U20 in pre-tournament, GB going 2-1 in the series.
Ali Fraser was back in the line up, mildly sprained ankle and all. Louis scored the first 5 GB points, as the two teams made it a match to remember.
Ali scored, Joe finished a fast break, but it was hard to get defensive stops, 11-11. Grant continued where he left off yesterday, hitting a long jumper off the pick and pop.
Devon hit some free throws, GB up 4 but here comes the Belgian whirlwind—they can score in bunches. A 10-0 run. Rema enters, but GB finish the first quarter 6 down, 23-16.
Second quarter, Ali time. He presents a total match up problem for the Belgiums as they just cannot stop his low post moves and his mid-range jumper. When Devon finishes a coast-to-coast two hander (he couldn’t move the basket like the Poland big, no matter how long he swung on the rim), GB is back to within one, 27-28.
More Ali, and another jumper from big time shooter Louis and GB go ahead. Devon hits a three, Belgium time-out and GB crowd mini-wave (astonished Bulgarian looking on—big crowd coming in as they are getting ready for their match).
Good time-out because Belgium come back, but the end of the quarter belongs to GB. Grant hits another four points. The clock ticks down in a beautiful set play as Josh fires up the open three—miss—but there’s Connor flying in for the tip. GB up 46-41 at the half, 12 points by Ali in the half.
The Ali-onslaught continues immediately as he reels off the first 6 points and GB acquire their first double digit lead at 52-41. The story will get familiar. Instead of building on their lead, Belgium race back.
It does seem to be their style of play—they can go on massive runs (they came back from 20 v Israel and are a true desperation momentum team) so it gets back to 4. Connor’s three and more Ali and we’re back at 10. Belgium decide to go to zone. This Ali-nonsense has to stop, you see them think. And it’s working. The offensive flow stalls, but as Belgium come near, zone-buster Joe nails a three right before the end of the quarter, 67-59 at the end of three.
And Joe goes on. He hits two more threes and Belgium go back down 9. After a Louis three with 4min to go, it’s still 9 and the GB crowd is ready for another mini-wave.
With 1.07, Devon gets the lay up and it’s still 7 up. What happens next is not good for nerves and requires de-fibrillation. Belgium three, steal+dunk, and shot and with 25 seconds left to tie game. An excellent final play gets Louis the 3-point look but it rims out. OT!
And here it gets fun. The Bulgarian TV schedule goes into scramble mode. The OT ensures a full house, even though only the 7 Belgians and 5 GBs in the crowd make noise—probably a bit like the GB USA match in Manchester.
Terrible start for GB, who have to overcome the disaster of the final minute of regulation. Belgium go up 4 right away—only Belgian waves this time.
So back to what works, feed Ali (he does take quite a bit of feeding). Double team and kick out to Connor. He thinks about the three, and then YES. Devon then skies for the defensive rebound, and Connor thinks, let’s do a heat-check, and he hits another pull up 2 in the lane.
Another good defensive stop, Ali boards, GB run the play (huh, that means, get the ball to Ali), double-team, and kick out to Louis this time. Louis doesn’t think and just pulls up, three. But and-one on the other end, missed free throw but bad box out and tip, so basically 4-point play and tied again at 95.
Back to the grind. Devon feeds the big hands of Ali and GB regain their 4-point advantage. 33 seconds to go, time-out GB ball. Not as planned, Connor runs into the trap and the big fella (of all people) hits a three for 99-98. Another time-out with 14 seconds (just imagine the Bulgarian TV people at the moment) and GB ball.
GB inbounds to Joe who immediately gets fouled. Wrong player to foul. Mr Clutch hits both free throws. GB opt not to foul. Lecomte misses the long three, and the put back on the buzzer doesn’t matter—it does make the score look pretty cool, 101-100 GB.
Ali, 37p (!), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 fouls drawn. Quite OK stat line, especially with the lion sized ankle.
Louis, 20 (8/11 shooting), 7 rebounds. Big time shooting and a great cut through the lane for the lay up when GB were struggling.
Joe, 13p in 17min. Mr Zone Buster and Mr Clutch.
Devon, 13p, 8 reb, 12 assists, 6 fouls drawn. Shot didn’t fall, but came good as floor leader with most assists of the tournament in single game—nice slam as well.
Connor, 10p, 6 reb, 3 assists. Also some superb on the ball defense, and big points.
Grant, 8p, (3/3 shooting) in 7min. Unlucky that Ali was having a monster game.
Jesse, 0. What? 6 rebounds. But Jesse was so important. Had +7 when he was in the game.
Rema, 0. 1 reb, 4min.
John, Lee, Zac. DNP
GB faces big favourites Poland tomorrow for 5th or 6th place. How they lost their 2 crucial games is one of the big debates of the tournament. This team has the most ‘ranked’ talent of any team here. And whatever happens to GB, they will at least tie their best result ever (in Austria, 6th).
The final is between Croatia (disposed of Bulgaria) and the Czechs (who beat Israel). Don’t forget, GB beat Croatia by double figures. GB has played some superb basketball here.
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