Basketball: Limoges leave the Kings in limbo: Duncan Hooper reports from Crystal Palace

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THE KINGS gave it their all and if this proves not to be enough to take them into the final pool of the European Clubs' Championship they will feel justifiably disappointed. When the Limoges players looked at the scoreboard as they left the court here last night they dismissed the 72-72 scoreline with a collective Gallic shrug: see you in France next week.

The first leg of this second-round tie was fabulously physical, real basketball of the muscle-clashing, aerial rugby league variety rarely seen in the impoverished, salary-capped Carlsberg League.

Bodies smashed into bodies and were sent into sweaty skids across the floor. Guildford Kings matched the French in heart and muscle, but the visitors had the edge in the head and the fingertips.

Guildford led 35-30 but failed to score for the final four minutes of the first half and went back to the locker-room trailing 36-35.

Four minutes from the end of the game the English side led 68- 60, but again concentration and intensity faded and fingers stiffened as Gordon and Shoulders missed in a depressing sequence of failure from the free-throw line.

The heroic performances of the 6ft 11in Henlan, who for long spells dominated the air space around the French basket, and Brown, who drew seven charging fouls against the French playmakers, may now add up to nothing.

The support of Gordon and Miller was an inspiration in itself while Byrd proved that his control, vision and wonderful passing ability can still light up a game.

Sadly, as the energy drained from his arms, it was Byrd's reckless and tired pass across the top of the French key which was intercepted by Bilba, who escaped down the floor to bring down the curtain with a dunk on that rarity in basketball, a drawn game.

Bilba's predatory instinct typified the French approach as they kept cannily in touch with the English champions and, particularly through Dacoury, Young and the Croatian Ivanovic, pounced at every opportunity allowed them.

Guildford may learn to their cost that similar opportunities to open a double-figure lead are unlikely to present themselves in Limoges.

Leading scorers: Guildford: Henlan 22, Gordon 12, Thompkins 11, Brown 10. Limoges: Young 17, Bilba 15, Dacoury 14.

(Photograph omitted)