Basketball: Spanish surge sinks England

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JUST THREE days after trouncing Denmark 87-70, England's European championship challenge was put in perspective by a 74-58 defeat against the unbeaten Group C leaders, Spain, in Leon on Saturday night.

England were swept aside 45-19 in the first half of their seventh game in the semi-final round, hitting the target with just six attempts. Their rhythm was upset by an early injury to Roger Huggins. Huggins was taken off to have stitches in a head wound with England trailing just 12-10.

In his absence Spain surged to 26-3, as only John Amaechi and Steve Bucknall looked capable of threatening the Spanish basket. Amaechi finished with 15 points, Bucknall with 14 and the next highest scorer was Delme Herriman on five.

England have three games left in the return fixtures in the group which began last season.

After losing three games out of seven, they will have to win in the Ukraine on Wednesday and then beat Israel and Belarus in February to have any chance of qualifying automatically for the finals from the top two positions.

n Thousands of Bosnians celebrated into the early hours yesterday after their national team beat Croatia in a European championship qualifier. Traffic in downtown Sarajevo came to a standstill after the unexpected 67-64 victory boosted Bosnia's chances of reaching the championships.