Duco van Oostrum, checks in from Romania with his second blog of the Great Britain Under 20s’ 2013 campaign, looking at their opening day win over the Slovak Republic.
U20 European Championship B, Pitesti, Romania
Great Britain 75 (26, 42, 55)
Slovak Republic 62 (18, 32, 47)
After a long and thorough preparation, it was finally tournament time for the GB U20 men. The first game presents so many challenges, and it didn’t help that hardly anything was known about the Slovak Republic team, except for names of good players.
In the ‘big’ gym, this game also signaled the official start of the tournament. Before tip, there was the small matter of the Slovak Republic flag, which was on display upside down, as gently pointed out by Slovak staff.
There was also a last minute set-back for GB—Matthew Don, one of the surprises of the team, could not play because of a back injury; his situation is ‘day-to-day’ as the phrase goes. As a result, the coaches had to adjust rotations and hope that foul trouble would be kept to a minimum.
As usual, ‘big man’ Rowell Graham easily won the tip against a 7-footer, and ‘here we go.’ Zak Wells immediately established position inside and with nifty finger rolls scored the first 4-points for GB for a 4-2 lead. But it wasn’t comfortable. The Slovaks responded with 3-point shooting and shots didn’t fall for GB—an 8-0 run meant a 10-4 lead for the Slovak Republic.
A big three from Raph Thomas-Edwards was followed by a put back tomahawk dunk (did he really look down into the rim) from Rowell, and GB were in business. Devon van Oostrum finally got the ‘and-one’ to fall; John Stewart hits a three, and Nick Lewis drains a shot and the first quarter finishes promisingly 26-18.
From then on, the game verges on a blowout but each time the Slovaks push back. Scoring becomes difficult, but luckily GB’s reliable defense once again makes sure they stay in front. There’s a nice dunk from the Slovak’s star guard Tot (bit of an unfortunate name for you German speakers) and he puts a marker down.
With Rowell picking up fouls, the nightmare starts for the coaches to try to make adjustments. Always reliable Joe Hart eventually counters with his characteristic three, Zak steals a ball, Nick Lewis throws it long to Devon who flushes it. Eleven up. Two quick scores from the Slovaks, however, and coach Leichner calls time-out. Devon goes on a scoring run, and offers pay-back time for Tot as he throws down a poster on him—‘and one.’ Half-time 42-32 GB.
Comfortable? Not really. The score hovers around a 12-point lead until Raph hits another three, while Grant MacKay wills in the tough lay up. Sixteen up, midway through the 3rd and we’re starting to feel more comfortable now.
A 10-2 Slovak run at the end of the quarter punishes us immediately for feeling smug and instead it’s now getting uncomfortable again with only an 8-point leading going in the fourth. Up to three times, GB hold on to a 6-point lead; Rowell also fouls out.
It wasn’t for creating good shots, it was just nothing was dropping. Big three-point shots against the Slovak zone finally proved the difference, two from Joe and one from Devon; Joe’s last one made it a 12-point game again with just over a minute to play. Finally game over. Score 75-62, an excellent start and solid win margin to start the tournament.
There are post-game interviews for Romanian television and for GB (thanks, Ville) and now we can relax and watch more basketball. Hungary blows out Luxembourg (couldn’t hit anything) and Poland moves easily past host Romania. Tomorrow, GB play Luxembourg.
After driving back to the hotel—steady on the right-side of the road, always, maybe—time to meet up in Pitesti square for some food, cold ones, and good stories. What happens in Pitesti, though, stays in Pitesti.
By the way, Pitesti is a nice city, the weather is fabulous, hotel with silent aircon, wifi excellent, but still struggling to say ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ in Romanian. But hey, it’s only day one.
Scores and stats
Devon, 29p, 10 reb, 5 assists, 14 times (!) fouled against—and tough D (somehow no steals on stat sheet)
Raph, 11p, 4 reb
Joe, 9p, 2 reb, and so much experience.
John, 8p, 2 reb, 3 assists; also, the master of deflections.
Nick, 6p, 4 reb, 2 assists.
Rowell, 6p, 8 reb, 5 fouls. One serious dunk.
Zak, 4p, 8 reb, 2 steals.
Grant, 2p, 1 reb, 1 assist.
Lewis Champion, 2 reb, 1 assist.
Jordan Spencer, 1 assist
Joe Lockwood, DNP
Matthew Don, back injury
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