England close to semis

England made a strong move towards the semi-final round of the European Championships in the autumn with an 84-74 victory over Georgia in the qualifying tournament at Birmingham's NEC last night, writes Duncan Hooper.

Steve Bucknall, forced into the unfamiliar role of playmaker, led England's scorers with 21 points and broke Georgia's resistance with a dunk to give England an 82-67 lead.

Neville Austin's vital offensive rebounds and blocked shots also stemmed Georgia's dogged assaults in the second half, led by the 7ft 1in Vladimir Stepania, who scored 17 points.

The first half had belonged to Spencer Dunkley, born in Wolverhampton, who arrived with the England team via a college career in Delaware and spells with club sides in Israel and last season in Moscow. Dunkley scored 15 of England's first 19 points, including two dunks.