Basketball: England outshot by Finns

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ENGLAND took a hammering from Finland in their opening game of the Basketfest International Tournament at Manchester's Nynex Arena last night, missing 22 out of 48 free throws in a 92-69 defeat.

With John Amaechi trying to resurrect his NBA career in America, the veterans Steve Bucknall and Peter Scantlebury shouldered the responsibility for England's offence but Laszlo Nemeth's team were comprehensively outshot by the Finns.

Marti Kuusma scored three three-pointers before the interval as Finland sprinted from 14-10 ahead to lead 49-27 at the break. Kuusma immediately potted another two "threes" on the restart for a 59-28 lead and Finland coasted on offence until the end.

Birmingham's 6ft 11in Chris Haslam impressively tried to fill the gap left by Amaechi, scoring only eight points but taking 12 rebounds. Haslam was also wasteful from the free throw line, though, missing five out of nine shots.

Bucknall lead England's scorers with 17 points, Scantlebury had 10 and Neville Austin nine, ahead of Haslam's eight. Tonight England play the Netherlands.

Mike Finger has been rewarded with a new contract for coaching Peugeot Bullets Birmingham to the Budweiser Championships play-off title in his rookie year, but may have to build a new team for next season.

Finger was one of the few coaches to keep the same line-up for the whole of last season, but the salary expectations of some of his leading players, including Tony Dorsey, Nigel Lloyd, Reggie Kirk and the England international, Chris Haslam, would force the club over the pounds 150,000 salary cap for next season.