It has been a more successful couple of days for the U18 Men to start the week. On Tuesday the side beat rivals Scotland 95-51, following up that maiden victory with another W 24 hours later, topping Albania 83-42. Those 2 wins close out group play for the U18s as they now move into the classification stage of the tournament. Finishing 4th in group D means an initial game against the team that finished 3rd in group C, Iceland, who are 3-2 in the tournament so far.
England's first victory against Scotland was built on a balanced attack that saw 5 different players score double digit points. Nelson Boachie-Yiadom led the way with 14, Henri Langton and Micah Savery-Richards both had 12 whilst Luke Mitchell and Brian Amabilino-Perez added 11 apiece. Mitchell was dialled in from long range early and his 3 pointer sparked a 13-4 run that put England in command. Henri Langton also got to work in that initial burst; causing problems inside as he threw down dunks on back to back possession that had the Scots calling a quick time out. England built a lead that reached 13 points at one stage, before settling for a 22-14 advantage at the end of the 1st. Coach Bucknall will have been pleased that his team came out in the 2nd with more of the same, putting together a 9-0 run that stretched the lead above the 20 point mark. Strong defence kept Scotland to just 13 points and established a commanding 51-27 lead at the break.
(Brian Amabilino-Perez and Nelso Boachie-Yiadom on defence against Slovakias - FIBA Europe)
The story to start the 3rd was much the same; England shared the ball around on offence to repeatedly put points on the board whilst the effort on defence frustrated their opponents. By the end of the quarter the lead was north of 30 for England, allowing Coach Bucknall to rotate his players and take a look at his bench. Josh Edwards impressed, having seen limited time in the side's previous 3 contests. The London-Lewisham Thunder player put up 5 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals for a rounded stat line. The 4th quarter saw England score 26 and the lead move beyond 40 before the final buzzer.
England had a lot to be positive about once the game was over. Coach Bucknall stated, "The team showed focus today. It is important for us to get wins in our last two games and play for 9th place." Captain Carl Wheatle was pleased to get a notch in the win column to help the squad improve going forward, "It is great to finally get a win and shake off our doubts. We are pleased with our performance today and know it is vital that we take the boost of winning into tomorrow’s game."
Albania, much like Scotland the day before, struggled to provide a stern test for the England side but the players still applied themselves well and did what was required. Another balanced performance saw Wheatle and Lancashire Spinner Zion Tordoff put up 12 points, whilst Mitchell, Amabilino-Perez and RJ Eytle-Rock all added 10. England didn't start the game as positively as they may have hoped, giving Albania some hope that they may match England with the scores tied at 8. England took the last 5 points of the quarter though to lead 13-8 after 1, but the 2nd quarter was where the damage was done.
Albania initially pulled within 2 points to start proceedings in the 2nd, but after that it was all one way traffic. Ripping off an 18-3 run, England stamped their authority on the game. A 33-12 quarter allowed Coach Bucknall's side to go into the break at 46-20. Much like the previous game against Scotland, England once again rotated their roster to give valuable minutes to the likes of Josh Edwards, Romario Spence, Daniel Akin and Josh Apple. With scores of 61-30 at the end of the 3rd and 83-42 by the final buzzer, the game was over long before half time.
The U18 Men now enjoy a day off today before taking on Iceland tomorrow at 8:00pm GMT. A win will allow England to still compete for 9th to 12th place. A loss will move them into the bracket to finish between 13th and 16th. You can follow the game against Iceland on Live Stats by clicking here.