England hopes ended by steady Latvia

Basketball

Teamwork overcame talent at the Granby Halls, Leicester, last night where a polished and competent Latvia beat England 76-66, ending their already faint hopes of qualifying for the European Championship from their six- team group.

England spent much of the second half apparently poised for a fight-back which never materialised and the game petered out to their fifth defeat in six games.

Unlike England, who can afford no meaningful international programme, the Latvians rehearsed with more than a dozen internationals during the summer, and it showed.

The haphazard preparation forced on the England coach, Laszlo Nemeth, was typified by the 6ft 11in Wolverhampton-born Spencer Dunkley, now playing in France, who joined the team only on Tuesday night, a day late, after spending extra time with his girlfriend in America.

Dunkley's first move was an exquisitely timed block, his second an ungainly lurch into the Latvian defence which cost him a foul. Steve Bucknall, who finished with 24 points, and John Amaechi (19 points) both play in Greece, and the Italy-based Delme Herriman gave England an early edge. But the Latvians' height and compact defence soon nullified England close to the basket.

Unlike England, Latvia had the shooters to exploit space on the perimeter, and three-pointers from Edgar Sneps, Robert Stelmahers and Ivars Liepa either side of half-time put them 45-32 ahead after they had led 38-29 at the break.

Leading scorers: England Bucknall 24, Amaechi 19. Latvia Bagatskis 22, Bondarenko 14, Stelmahers 8.

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