BASKETBALL: Treble success for Bucknall

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Thames Valley Tigers beat London Towers 99-85 in the World Invitation Club Basketball tournament at Crystal Palace last night, using the international event to stamp their mark on a team who may yet be among the challengers for their Budweiser Le ague title.

This was the second WICB championship for Tigers and coach Mick Bett after their win against Moscow two years ago.

But the night belonged to Steve Bucknall, winning the championship for the third occasion and with his third different club following the triumphs of University of North Carolina in 1988 and Sunderland in 1991.

Bucknall, surely tired of being announced to the crowd as the former LA Laker, did not score a two-pointer for the first 10 minutes. But he then hit 14 points in the next seven minutes as Tigers went from 24-20 down to lead 46-33, at which point Towers' coach Kevin Cadle called his second time-out in two minutes.

Yet it was Towers who began like a whirlwind, leading 20-9 as guards Danny Lewis and Andrew Bailey scored their first 10 points before their big men, Martin Henlan and Ken Scott, shared the next 10.

But once Bucknall became inspired on the Crystal Palace floor where he played as a junior, London fell apart as spectacularly as Tigers came together.

Bucknall's first-half tally of 14 included a long-range hook and dunk, while Michael Hayles and Tony Holley added punishing three-pointers.