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Basketball: Gardiner inspires England to away-day triumph

ENGLAND RESURRECTED their European Championship challenge in astonishing style last night, beating Latvia 97-90 in Riga in their third Group A semi-final round game.

England's track record as poor travellers appears to have been overturned by the presence of seven players from continental clubs in coach Laszlo Nemeth's 11 man squad.

Losing their opening game 73-60 against Switzerland in Sheffield last Wednesday, England responded by winning 81-73 in Slovakia on Saturday before mugging the Latvians in front of 4,000 of their supporters.

A superlative team performance was capped by outstanding displays from Andy Gardiner, who plays for Belgium club Wevelgem, and Steve Bucknall of London Towers.

Gardiner scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half as England came back from a 43-41 half-time deficit, while Bucknall scored 15 of his 19 points in the second period.

Successive three-pointers from Bucknall and Gardiner gave England a 51- 48 lead, before Bucknall hit two more threes. When Bucknall missed with a free throw Andy Betts, who scored 19 points, rebounded the ball and dumped it out to Gardiner who hit a three-pointer for an 84-81 lead.

When Kojo Bonsu also missed from the free throw line, Betts rebounded the ball again and scored for a game-winning 93-88 lead.

A suddenly buoyant England resume their campaign to reach the 2001 finals in Turkey at home to Croatia and away to Hungary in February.