Basketball: Austin sinks Weert: Tigers' tilt endangered

THE EUROPEAN future of the Thames Valley Tigers was put on hold at Bracknell last night when they wasted a 20-point first-half advantage before beating Weert 96-94 in the first leg of their European Clubs Championship first- round tie. They needed a basket from Neville Austin, from the final play of the game, to take even this slender advantage to the Netherlands for next week's return against the Dutch champions.

Five new faces in the Tigers' line-up produced a shaky start to both halves and they trailed 15-4 after five minutes. But with Michael Hayles hitting three successive three-pointers and Peter Scantlebury adding a fourth, the Tigers ate into the Dutch lead even though the teams were still trading baskets. Mid-court pressure defence completely unhinged the Dutch and although the Tigers had opened the game with three turnovers, it was Weert who were now losing possession.

But the Tigers left their athleticism and aggression in the locker room at half-time as Gerard Ackermans, Sonique Nixon and the experienced international, Chris Van Dinten, punished a static defence to outscore Tigers 25-6 over the first seven minutes of the second period.

Confidence drained from the English champions. Scantlebury failed to score in the second period, and Weert slowed the tempo and settled for taking a close scoreline back to the Netherlands.

Leading scorers: Thames Valley: Holley 21; Bucknall 20; Austin 17. Weert: Nixon 25; Ackermans 19; Van Dinton 18.