Basketball: Manchester fall to fast-breaking Latvians

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Manchester Giants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95

Broceni Riga . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118

BROCENI RIGA showed that leading the Budweiser League cuts no ice in Latvia, by storming past Manchester Giants 118-95 in the final of the World Invitation Club basketball tournament at Crystal Palace last night, writes Duncan Hooper.

Riga monopolised the rebounds and the three-pointers, scoring 12 times from long range, and accelerated to the biggest win since Maccabi Tel Aviv's 102-78 victory over Bruges in 1979.

Giants had a nightmare start and were 15-1 behind when Kurt Samuels scored their first field basket after five minutes. The Latvians destroyed Manchester on the fast break, potted the ball from mid and long range and carved open their defence with a superb display of instinctive passing.

With Andrei Bondarenko, Elshad Gadashev, Ivars Liepa and Aigars Zeidaks hammering Manchester's big men it was left to the comparatively diminuitive Joe Hillman, at 6ft 2in, to try to penetrate their defence.

Riga's domination was threatened when Gadashev fouled out and then earned a technical and a disqualifying foul for comments to the Swedish referee, Richard Johansson.

As the Giants tried to come back, with Trevor Gordon using his power under Riga's basket, the Latvians unleashed their full repertoire of counter-attacks.

Ainars Bakatskis scored four second-half three-pointers to take his game total to six as Riga completed the game in unstoppable fashion.

Leading scorers. Riga: Bakatskis 36, Zeidaks 18, Pehka 17. Manchester: Hillman 25, Gordon 24, Samuels 20.

(Photograph omitted)