Basketball: Kings withstand test of nerve

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GUILDFORD KINGS defeated Kalev Tallinn 79-73 here last night to survive the preliminary round of basketball's European Championship for men's clubs by 154-153 on aggregate.

Gert Kullame put Guildford's nerves to the test by shooting 22 second-half points for the Estonians. Aivaar Kuusma, with a three-pointer plus a bonus shot, gave Kalev a one-point aggregate advantage with Kingston leading 77-73 on the night. The Kings scraped home thanks to a tip-in from Tyrone Shoulders and escaped finally when Kullame missed with two three-point attempts in the final 10 seconds.

Guildford play Limoges in the next round and the French will not be shaking in their boots.

Guildford began last night's match with a five-point deficit from the first leg, but it took the American guard, Derek Thompkins, barely two minutes to wipe out the Estonians' lead with three jump shots from mid range.

When the Kalev defence pushed out to put pressure on Thompkins he dumped the ball into the extra space created under their basket for Shoulders to score an easy lay-up. Thompkins made it four out of four to open a 10-0 lead as Karl Brown kept the Guildford offence in a high gear and four minutes passed before Andrus Nagel opened Kalev's scoring.

But Guildford's speed lured them into some hurried shots with the rebounders out of position and when Aivaar Kuusma scored his first three-pointer of the night the Kings led 23-13.

Thompkins' return to the offence threatened to open the gates as he scored with his first shot after a spell on the bench. But with Kuusma and Nagel finding gaps on the perimeter of Guildford's defence, the English champions clung to a 38-26 lead at half-time.

Guildford were still edgy on the restart as Kuusma and Nagel cut their aggregate lead to three points and then in a flurry of four three-pointers midway through the half Kullame twice gave Kalev a two-point aggregate lead. Kullame, with his third three-pointer of the half, put Kalev ahead on aggregate though Kingston held on.

Tomorrow the Kings must shuffle their line-up when they open the defence of their league title at Guildford Sports Centre against Derby. Guildford have exceeded the salary cap and the league has ordered them to cut two players from their roster for each game.

European results, Sport in Short, page 33

(Photograph omitted)