BASKETBALL; Bucknall leads the way

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THREE EXTRA days' training paid dividends for England in Bratislava on Saturday night where they beat Slovakia 81-73 in the European Championship, partly repairing the damage from Wednesday's 73-60 home defeat against Switzerland in their opening Group A game.

England survived a rocky spell in the second half, falling behind by four points after having led 41-30 at half-time, but two free throws from the Italy-based Andy Betts gave them a 77-73 lead with just under three minutes to play.

Slovakia conceded the next four points as England took control to boost morale before leaving for Wednesday night's game in Latvia, which closes the first series of games before fixtures against Croatia and Hungary in February. Steve Bucknall led England's scorers with 16 points, ahead of 15 from Kojo Bonsu and 12 from Newcastle Eagles' Ian Whyte.

While Whyte was on duty with England, his club were losing 107-104 in overtime at home to Chester Jets in the Northern Conference of the Championship. Chester's Kyle Ivey-Jones forced the extra period at 100-100 with two free throws two seconds from time.

Ralph Blalock gave Eagles a four-point lead, but they failed to score again as Greg Francis, Dave Gardner and James Hamilton gave Jets their fourth consecutive victory.