- National Teams
England Under-16s survived a late charge from Wales Under-18s to pull out a 49-44 victory in their opening game of the Riders Junior Invitational on Monday afternoon at Leicester Community Sports Arena.
A 17 point, 14 rebound double double from Richard Amaefule, including some big plays down the stretch, was enough to hold off a spirited Welsh side who got right back into the game in the final minutes having been down as many as 20.
Amaefule knocked down two free throws in the dying moments, before getting a deflection at the other end as England held their nerve against Wales with a solid defensive display across the final possessions.
“My thoughts on our performance are mixed, but we’ve got to be realistic about where we are in the campaign,” England Head Coach Alan Keane said.
“We’re coming off one camp at Christmas, it’s the second time we’ve been together in the campaign…Today we only scored 49 points, that’s expected in your first game in February because we’re not ready to score yet, but the priority for us as a coaching staff and the priority to instil in the players is to be defensive minded first and foremost. Were we defensive minded today? Yes we were. Did we execute what we wanted to execute? No we didn’t, but at times we did so there are positives to take away.”
A nervous start saw neither team be able to find the bottom of the basket, as England held just a 10-9 lead after the opening quarter. Things improved in the second, as England hit the offensive glass behind Amaefule and Hosana Kitenge, building their lead before Wales stormed back into it with a 10-2 run in the second half.
England saw a balanced scoring effort with Mate Okros (pictured, above) being second leading scorer with 7 points.
Look ahead to Tuesday’s game against Charnwood, Keane feels the squad needs to work on their mental focus.
“I think the biggest thing for the players is a mental perspective more than anything else,” he continued.
“If you’re at any of our practices the energy level is off the charts, these guys are very energetic, very vocal, get after it in practice – all of them – and I thought today’s game they played a bit conservative. Probably (they were) nervous with it being the first game, but also these guys have to understand the transition from club basketball to international basketball is a bigger step than they may think.”
Charnwood vs Ireland Under-16s
Charnwood’s EABL squad opened the Riders Junior Invitational with a 62-52 over Ireland Under-16s, in a game that was closer than many expected.
Without Morgan Carter – who is representing Wales over the three days in Leicester – Charnwood struggled to get going and dominate a side that is 3 years younger them.
Charnwood however, were in control throughout, extending their lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter, before a final fightback from Ireland.
“Having had a few days off leading up to the game definitely showed,” Charnwood Head Coach Josh Merrington said.
“We showed some rust and it was not a pretty performance from us by any means. With a few key players out these games give guys a good opportunity to show what they can do in increased playing time. We’ll be looking to redeem ourselves against a strong England team on Tuesday afternoon.”
England Under-18 Henri Langton led Charnwood with 14 points, while Sesan Russell and Andre Arissol added 12 each.