Basketball: Betts adds edge in desperate battle to beat odds

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The Independent Online

England kept their nerve in the closing seconds to claim an unexpected 73-70 victory over Slovenia at Coventry's Skydome on Saturday, bouncing back from last week's defeat in Italy and boosting their morale for Wednesday's game in the Czech Republic.

England kept their nerve in the closing seconds to claim an unexpected 73-70 victory over Slovenia at Coventry's Skydome on Saturday, bouncing back from last week's defeat in Italy and boosting their morale for Wednesday's game in the Czech Republic.

Two free throws from the seven-foot giant Andy Betts, who played the entire 40 minutes, and impressively at that, to claim 13 points and 13 rebounds, edged England ahead at 71-70 in the semi-final round of the European Championships.

Then, after Yorick Williams drew a charging foul on Slovenia's impressive 24-point Sanni Becirovic, the former Birmingham Bullets' Steve Hansell and Tony Dorsey sealed the win by each converting one free throw from two attempts.

Dorsey led England's scorers with 16 points ahead of 15 from another former Bullet, Chris Haslam.

Sharing a group with two former champions, Italy and Russia plus Slovenia, quarter-finalists in last summer's championship finals, was never going to be an easy task for England. They must overcome a demanding challenge in order to grab one of the two qualifying places on offer but more importantly, must finish above the Czechs and Portugal to avoid relegation to the minor nations' pre-qualifying group.

Ireland, making their semi-final round debut, seemed set for a major upset by beating Croatia in Dublin, but were outscored 23-9 in the final quarter and lost 78-76.

Birmingham have replaced Rashod Johnson in their domestic line-up with Antonio Garcia, who was previously registered only for North European League games.

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