Basketball: England hopes crushed by Slovenia

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The Independent Online

England's faint hopes of qualifying for next summer's European Championship Finals in Sweden ended with a 104-71 surrender to Slovenia in Letiga on Saturday night. That loss came four days after one of the biggest defeats in the national team's history when Italy beat them 97-39 in Coventry.

England's faint hopes of qualifying for next summer's European Championship Finals in Sweden ended with a 104-71 surrender to Slovenia in Letiga on Saturday night. That loss came four days after one of the biggest defeats in the national team's history when Italy beat them 97-39 in Coventry.

Now the coach Laszlo Nemeth's beleaguered players must beat the Czech Republic at Birmingham's Aston Events Centre on Wednesday to secure a place in the semi-final round of the next Championships.

Failure could force England into the pre-qualifying event, although at least that would guarantee competitive games in the absence of the friendly internationals which it is beyond the impoverished governing body to provide.

England beat Slovenia 73-70 in last season's opening round of Group E fixtures – the first meeting between the countries – but were never in contention on Saturday after being outscored 34-10 in the second quarter to trail 60-30 at half-time. Tony Dorsey led England's scorers with 16 points. Ireland's hopes of qualifying also ended with an 87-69 defeat in Croatia.

Also on Saturday, Birmingham Bullets won their first BBL Championship game at the ninth attempt, outscoring Leicester Riders 91-89, while London Towers ended Brighton Bears unbeaten run this season with a 105-87 win in a BBL Trophy group game.

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