The U18 Men concluded their European Championships Division B campaign over the weekend with wins over Iceland, Belarus and Georgia to finish in 9th place. England overcame Iceland 70-64, before beating Belarus 81-64 a day later and gaining revenge over previous group D opponents Georgia 85-81 on Sunday.
Friday's match up with Iceland started brightly as England built a 1st quarter lead. After the initial exchanges, 6 points from RJ Eytle-Rock and a triple from Luke Mitchell saw England go on a 13-3 run to end the period up 19-8. The 2nd saw England maintain their lead as the gap grew as high as 15 with deep shots from Josh Edwards and Brian Amabilino-Perez, but it also dropped as low as 8 as Iceland fought to get back into the contest. In the end England edged the quarter 16-14 to lead 35-22 at the break.
The 3rd saw a big Icelandic fight back that England struggled to fend off. By the time the 4th was ready to start, the lead was down to just 2 points. Baskets from Zion Tordoff and Daniel Akin, plus 5 from Carl Wheatle and 4 from Henri Langton kept England's noses in front but it was anyone's games heading into the last. Sensing a comeback was still on the cards, Iceland battled hard and tied the game at 52, then at 54, shortly into the 4th. England put together a solid run in the middle of the quarter to pull away once again, with 5 different England scorers contributing to allow the lead to once again stretch to 8 at 64-56 with 2 minutes to go. Iceland made a final push to get back into the game but a three point play from Micah Savery-Richards was enough to put England up by double digits and hang on for the win.
(Brian Amabilino-Perez vs Georgia - FIBA Europe)
The resolve of his side wasn't lost on Coach Bucknall, who was pleased with what he saw, "It is good for us that we fought off a rally by Iceland and responded with a 8-0 run inside the last two minute." That sentiment was echoed by Leeds Force's Micah Savery-Richards, "We were ready to play today and dug deep in the last two minutes". England dominated Iceland on the glass for the duration, winning that battle 56-33, including 23 offensive rebounds. Carl Wheatle grabbed 25 of those 56 boards, whilst adding 11 points and 5 assists. Zion Tordoff led the English scorers with 15 and RJ Eytle-Rock finished with 10.
That win allowed England to move on to face Belarus 24 hours later with the possibility of a 9th placed finish still alive. The opening 10 minutes saw England establish 6 point leads at both 10-4 and 16-10 with both runs helped along by the free scoring of Nelson Boachie-Yiadom. In the end, England had to settle for a 4 point lead at the end of 1, up 18-14. Looking to establish a larger advantage, England started the 2nd well with a 3 pointer from Brian Amabilino-Perez that sparked a 9-2 run that took the lead into double digits for the first time in the game. Belarus fought back and reduced their deficit, going into the half trailing England 39-34.
The 3rd started exactly the same as the 2nd as England went on a 9-2 run to once again build a double digit lead. This time the catalyst was once again Boachie-Yiadom who scored 6 in that run and 10 total for the quarter. Belarus tried once more to claw back the lead but came up a few points short with England winning the quarter by 3 taking a 61-53 advantage into the final period. A 6-0 streak opened the 4th for England with Boachie-Yiadom once again doing the damage, but this time Belarus had no answer. England disappeared towards the final buzzer and took the contest 81-64. Boachie-Yiadom was the star of the show, he finished with 26 points and 8 rebounds. Micah Savery-Richards put up 10, and Carl Wheatle continued his hot form with a rounded stat line of 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks.
(Nelson Boachie-Yiadom averaged 9.9ppg and 6.5rpg in the tournament - FIBA Europe)
Back to back wins presented England with a match up against Georgia in the game to decided 9th and 10th place. The Eastern European side had beaten England in Group D play during a game that saw Coach Bucknall's side amass a large lead at the half before a comeback from Georgia gave them a 76-70 win. After an even start to the contest, Zion Tordoff connected from deep early to keep England in contention at 9-10, but Georgia then picked up where they left off in game 1 and went on a 16-4 run. Fortunately, England was able to score the last 8 points of the quarter to end the 1st at 21-26. The 2nd was the most dominant quarter from the Georgians who restricted England to just 13 points whilst adding 21 of their own. At 34-47 and with a previous win already over England at the tournament, Georgia's spirits were high as they were looking firmly at 9th place with 20 minutes left to play.
However, much like that previous meeting, this game flipped on its head in the 2nd half. This time it was England who were the benefactors and Georgia simply had no answer. England roared out of the locker room with a 16-6 run that included 10 points from Nelson Boachie-Yiadom. Georgia struggled to contain England's offensive pace and repeated drives to the basket as Henri Langton, Brian Amabilino-Perez and RJ Eytle-Rock all converted free throws in that run. The scoring was eventually stopped as Georgia went on a little streak of their own but England were on a roll and finished the 3rd with the psychological advantage of having removed the deficit entirely, they were up 67-66.
The 4th started slowly with the score moving on to just 75-68 with 4 minutes to go. That pace soon quickened though as Georgia looked for a way back into the match. England's scoring touch deserted them as the scores got closer, with Georgia hitting a 3 to trim the lead to just 4 with 3:30 to go. A couple of Daniel Akin free throws and a basket from Tordoff created some breathing room but Georgia didn't relent and another clutch 3 pointer had Georgia trailing by just 2 with 24 seconds left. Intentional fouls sent Eytle-Rock to the line but the Kent Crusader could only hit 1 of his 2 attempts and the lead stood at 3. Georgia grabbed the board after the 2nd missed shot, broke down the court and hit a 3 pointer to tie things up at 81-81 with 8 ticks left on the clock. The ensuing England timeout gave Coach Bucknall a chance to call one final play, and drawing from their experiences against Holland before the tournament began, the go to man in crunch time was once again RJ Eytle-Rock. Like he did to Holland, the guard was cool and collected as he dropped in the basket when it mattered most. England held on for the last few seconds and sealed the win with free throws, 85-81.
(The U18 Men after their victory vs Georgia - FIBA Europe)
Carl Wheatle led the tournament with 11.4rpg and was tied 6th overall with 3 double-doubles. The Angelico Biella man also paced England in a number of categories throughout the tournament. His 17.8 efficiency per game, 10.1ppg and 3.4apg were all team highs.