England's U16 Men stepped up their European Championships prep on Saturday with a comfortable 75-61 victory over Scotland's U18s at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester. Coach Alan Keane will no doubt have enjoyed the opportunity to watch his players in live action as he looks to narrow his squad down to 12 ahead of the team's Euro opener against Ireland on 11th August.
Thames Valley Cavaliers' Robert Banks Jr. top scored with 24 and started his day with 2 shots from beyond the arc that allowed England to establish a 13-7 lead early. The intensity from the hosts was evident throughout the quarter as the lead grew to 10 at 22-12 to finish the 1st. Unfortunately for the Scottish team it was a similar story in the 2nd as England dialled up the pressure and forced a number of turnovers. In the end the damage for the visitors was a 44-21 deficit at the break.
A large lead led to complacency from the English squad and taking their foot off the accelerator allowed Scotland back into the contest. In turn they went on a rapid fire 11-2 run that had Coach Keane calling a time out to refocus his men. However England struggled to get back to their 1st half form and the 3rd quarter was all Scotland, trimming the lead to just 11 at 53-42.
The final score could have been very different had it not for some timely shooting on England's part. Scotland closed the gap to 6 but that was the closest they would come as time and again the hosts found their way out of a jam by hitting a clutch shot from deep. Jacob Round scored 11 in the contest, including 1 of the 4th quarter 3s, but the star of the show was Banks Jr. who was 5/9 from deep and scored his 24 in 17 minutes. Daniel Ogoro showed good intensity throughout and finished with 12.
(The current U16M squad before their match up with Scotland)
After the game, Coach Keane was happy that the game had given his side a good benchmark to work, "Today's performance showed us where we are in our preparation. The first half execution on both ends of the floor was very good and we fully committed to the game plan, playing with a high energy. However with limited prep games, complacency set in after half time as we entered the 3rd with a big lead."
Barking Abbey's Robin Bedford made his England debut during the game it was a special moment for you young guard, "The game today was very enjoyable and I feel proud and honoured to have worn an England kit and represent my country. It was a great experience and I look forward to seeing what possible opportunities I will have in the future."
As for Coach Keane, he now needs to make some tough decisions regarding his squad before they are ready for tournament action. More immediately though, he is aware of what needs to be improved, "The mindset of what we need to do to be better in every moment is still not a character trait we possess. Right now the biggest threat we have is not committing to excellence in the moment, every moment."