Great Britain Under-16s were denied promotion to Division A after suffering an agonising 63-64 loss to Georgia in the bronze medal game in Sofia, Bulgaria on Saturday.
James Vear’s side, who had led by as many as 19 before seeing it wiped out in the third – moved five ahead inside the final minute, but free throw misses proved costly as Georgia snatched victory in the dying seconds.
Mate Okros poured in 25 points as well as adding nine rebounds and four assists in the heart-breaking loss with Eric Donaldson and Tomiwa Sulaiman adding 11 points each.
Oluwasegan Shodunke set the tone with a three on the opening possession and after Georgia cut the gap to 5-4 three minutes in, the rest of the period belonged to GB.
Norton-Cuffy and Pandza both netted from downtown either side of a nine-point blitz from Okros as a 17-0 run gave GB a commanding 20-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Georgia battled back with a bright start to the second and although Tomiwa Sulaiman’s three stretched the lead out to 18, the gap was narrowly reduced at the half with GB going into the break up 40-25.
Okros began the third with another triple to push GB further ahead, but Georgia came storming back with an incredible 22-0 reply to take their first lead of the game.
GB faced a 45-52 deficit heading into the fourth, but responded well and quickly tied the game before Okros fired his side ahead to make it 57-56. Back-to-back scores pushed the cushion out to five at 61-56 as a tense finale ensued.
Georgia began to gradually cut away at the lead, capitalising on missed free throws at the other end and when Okros was unable to convert two from the line, the game came down to the final possession.
Andronikashvilli grabbed the defensive rebound and went the full length of the court to lay it in before the buzzer and earn promotion for his nation, to the despair of GB.
An undeserved finish to a fantastic campaign for the Under-16s and a brilliant summer for GB junior sides with two promotions and two fourth-placed finishes.
– GB’s starters were Norton-Cuffy, Shodunke, Okros, Sulaiman & Hughes
– Pandza returned from injury that kept him out of QF & SF
– All three of GB’s junior men’s sides secured top-4 finishes
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