England's U18 Men got their summer off to a winning start as they claimed a narrow victory against the Netherlands last night, 61-59. RJ Eytle-Rock was the man who clinched the victory with a buzzer beating game winner.
Nelson Boachie-Yiadom led all scorers with 11, with Eytle-Rock dropping 9 and Carl Wheatle and Brian Amabilino Perez adding 8 each. It was a balanced performance from the side as Coach Steve Bucknall used the game to get a good look at all his players, giving them plenty of opportunity to contribute.
“We have a lot to look at in this three game series," he said. "The team have come together well and we got the win. We have to be more efficient and meet the goals we have set”
(England's top scorer Nelson Boachie-Yiadom - FIBA Europe)
A buzzer beater was a fitting climax to a game that was hard fought throughout. Against a side that finished just 4 places below England at last year's European Championships, both teams pressed hard as the game swung back and forth. England came out of the gates quickly and established a 17-9 lead after 1, thanks in part to some good shot making and solid defence. By the half that lead had been reduced to 5 as Netherlands clawed their way back into the contest.
It was more of the same from the hosts after the break as they established a lead of their own early in the 2nd half. The 3rd quarter was marred by scoring streaks as the Dutch went on a 7-1 run before England countered with a 6-0 run of their own. Unfortunately the quarter concluded strongly for the home side who carried a 48-44 lead into the 4th.
England chose to leave it late as they struggled to find answers on offence down the stretch. A lack of scoring left them trailing by 5 as time ticked below 3 minutes in regulation. Fortunately the boys rallied with points when it mattered, tying the game at 57-57, then 59-59. With just 2 seconds on the clock, England called a pivotal timeout, drew up an inbounds play for the former U16 product Eytle-Rock who calmly delivered for the W.
After the game, captain Carl Wheatle was quick to pay tribute to the harmony within the squad “The team is working hard. The guys are getting on well and working hard for the coaches. It is good to get away and finally put what we have learnt on the floor”
The team play their 2nd game against the Dutch tonight, before completing the 3 game series tomorrow. The team get their European Championships underway on 29th July against Ukraine.