Basketball: England frozen out by Ukraine

ENGLAND'S HOPES of qualifying for next summer's European Championship finals in France suffered a terminal reverse in the freezing conditions of Kiev last night, where the Ukraine won 66-60 in the eighth game of their semi-final round Group C campaign.

The players and the coach, Laszlo Nemeth, endured temperatures of minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit, in addition to sub-zero conditions in their hotel, and were frozen out of contention in the first half when the Ukraine outscored them 24-8 to take a 36-25 half-time lead. The veteran Alexander Volkov, a national sporting hero who played with the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, recently returned to the national team to help Ukraine's drive for the finals, and he led their scorers with 13 points.

England's early effectiveness was nullified when the Ukrainians used their height advantage to sit back in a zone defence. England failed to take up the challenge, shot poorly and their opponents stayed out of reach.

Roger Huggins, who led England's rebounders as well as scoring 12 points, and Delme Herriman threatened a brief revival at the start of the second half. Herriman finished on 13 points, two behind their leading scorer, John Amaechi.

Ukraine, Spain and Israel are left to contest the top two places in the group which earn automatic qualification for the finals. The four best- placed third teams from the five groups also qualify.

England are at home to Belarus and away to Israel in February to conclude their fixtures, when victory at least over Belarus will ensure they do not have to go through qualifying for the next semi-final round.