Duco van Oostrum checks in from Romania with his seventh blog of the Great Britain Under 20s’ 2013 campaign, looking at their dominating quarter final performance against the Netherlands.
U20 European Championship B, Pitesti, Romania
Great Britain 95 (25, 48, 72)
Netherlands57 (17, 29, 43)
As a reward for finishing undefeated and first in the group stages, GB earned themselves a quarterfinal against fourth-place finisher the Netherlands from the other group. Of course Great Britain knew the Dutch from the friendly matches in Ipswich and GB went in as heavy favourites (I didn’t check the odds, though).
Being the favourite is not always easy. The Netherlands had trashed Finland, beaten Cyprus and played relative close losing matches, usually going down because of just one below par quarter. The team has a classic stretch-four in Oregon State forward Olaf Schaftenaar and they have good size.
Great Britain once again came into the game with twelve healthy players, ready for the second stage of the tournament. It was a different story for the supporters. The nerves were somehow getting to us, as we left ridiculously early to go to the venue—couldn’t wait any longer.
The loyal Romanian GB fans were already there, waiting for ‘their’ GB team, and they wore their GB pins (given to them by GB staff as a token of appreciation) proudly. It’s great to see that the GB team have impressed the fans with their style of play and their welcoming demeanor off the court.
The Netherlands control the tip and miss on their first possession. Rowell receives the ball down low, misses, and here’s the familiar put-back. After 5-0 GB, the Dutch fight back to draw level.
The pattern is set; the physical GB team look to break away, while the Dutch have to fight back each time. From 11-9 GB, the first real break is there, as GB gets its first double-digit lead. As usual, Devon scores easily and often, but it’s his old Sheffield teammate John Stewart who does most of the damage, with 7 points and excellent overall play. The quarter finishes 25-17 GB.
Lewis Champion and Zak Wells help GB to a 31-19 lead and the Dutch respond one more time, scoring four quick points to draw a GB time-out. Lewis twists his ankle slightly, hobbling noticeably. No idea what was said during the time-out, but it worked. Also, John was subbed back in.
GB dominate the final four minutes, with Grant, Devon (gorgeous baseline dunk), Nick, and especially John again, doing the damage. John finishes perfect from the field and hits an outrageous three-pointer to close the first half at 48-29.
John has 14 points, Devon 19. Clearly, it’s the power of the Romanian garden gnome, a new roommate of John Stewart acquired on the rest day.
We are, for once, not worried. Great Britain’s domination extends to so many areas of the basketball court that the main question will be the points difference and whether GB can keep a positive momentum going for tomorrow. Raph terrorises the Dutch with his D and will end up with four steals and another one of those hard dunks; Joe and Devon keep the scoring flow and the defense just makes stops.
It sounds almost routine now, but that’s how far this team has progressed. It can actually blow out teams. And that’s what we’re witnessing. Nick connects with a three on the final offense, and it’s 72-43 GB. Sadly, Kevin Bleeker falls hard and is taken to hospital for X-rays on his hand and wrist.
Such a score-line ensures that minutes can be shared and Grant, Joe Lockwood, and Jordan Spencer grab their opportunity. Grant plays his best game of the tournament, going 4 for 5, and playing strong defense. Joe Lockwood scores again, and Jordan throws the no-look dime to close the game, 95-57.
Great Britain have reached their first semi-final ever and are guaranteed their best finish. They now also have two chances at promotion, since the first three teams here will be promoted.
We watch the remaining quarterfinals unfold and there are no surprises. Poland advance at the expense of Portugal, Hungary finally bully the much smaller Swiss team for a comfortable win, and Belgium beat host Romania in a surprisingly close finish. Three teams from group A and only one from group B advance.
For Great Britain, it means a semi-final against group opponents Hungary. If they can duplicate the group result, promotion and a place in the final awaits. No pressure.
Scores and Stats:
Devon van Oostrum, 34p, 4 assists, 3reb, 3 steals, +29, 4 times fouled against.
John Stewart, 15p (6/7, 2/2 3), 5 reb, 3 assists, +26.
Nick Lewis, 9p, 8 reb, 3 assists, 2 steals.
Joe Hart, 8p, 3 reb, 2 blocked shots (!).
Raph Thomas-Edwards, 8p, 4reb, 4 steals.
Grant MacKay, 8p (4/5), 3 reb, 2 assists.
Matthew Don, 5p, 6 reb.
Lewis Champion-Alleyne, 2p, 1 drawn charge.
Rowell Graham, 2p, 7 reb.
Zac Wells, 2p, 3reb.
Joe Lockwood, 2p.
Jordan Spencer, 2 assists, 1 reb.