Great Britain Under-20s suffered a devastating 72-68 loss to Finland this evening, all but dashing their hopes of advancing to the next round of the Division B European Championships in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Despite a huge game from Ryan Richards, who finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocked shots, GB could do little to stop FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guard penetration and once again struggled with turnovers as they fell to their second loss in as many days.
FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guard duo Antto Nikkarinen and Villematti Kopio were unstoppable for Finland, finishing with 56 of the Fins 72 points whilst sealing the game in crunch time.
As Richards went 2/2 at the line to tie the game at 68 with 29 seconds left, Nikkarinen hit a layup with just 11 seconds remaining to give Finland the lead, before Kopio stole the ball off a bad Van Oostrum pass and broke-away to score on the other end to give them a five point cushion with 1 second remaining. Game.
Despite the loss, head coach Tim Lewis remained positive:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was a much improved team performance, and despite the loss, I think we bounced back after yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I salute RyanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance, not just for his points, but he listened to what we said after ThursdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still in with a chance of going through to the quarter-finals.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ali Mackay had 10 points and 8 rebounds, Alex Marcotullio added 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals, whilst Devon Van Oostrum finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds and Alasdair Fraser had 4 points and 7 rebounds in limited minutes.
Ali Mackay got GB on the scoreboard early with a tip in off a Devon Van Oostrum miss to tie the game at 2-2 just under a minute in. GB looked in control early as Ryan Richards put GB up 11-6 midway through the opening period, but that was the last time theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d score before the break as Finland went on a 11-0 run to finish the quarter, going up 17-11 to start the second quarter.
GB came out in the second quarter firing, going on a 11-5 run sparked by Richards and two threes from Marcotullio, managing to re-take the lead at 22-21 two and a half minutes on an Ali Fraser basket from a Richards assist.
6 points from Richards and 2 from Fraser gave GB a seven point cushion, leading 30-23, but once again the Fins responded with a 11-0 run to take a 34-30 lead two minutes before halftime.
GB managed to claw it back somewhat, but went into the halftime break down two, 38-36, behind 13 points from Ryan Richards. FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s point guard, Nikkarinen and Kopio had combined for 29 of FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 38 points.
Van Oostrum connected with Richards out of halftime to tie the game up at 38 just 20 seconds in, but Kopio responded to give Finland two point lead once more. GB kept it close throughout the third, and Marcotullio drained a 3 just before the end of the quarter to tied it up at 56.
With it all to play for in the fourth, it was Finland who came out with fire, going on a 6-0 run to open the quarter as they capitalised on turnovers from Fraser and Marcotullio. GB refused to relent however, as a basket from Richards followed by a three from Van Oostrum brought them right back in it, down 62-61 with 5 minutes left to play.
Nikkarinen drained another three, before Marcotullio went 1/2 at the line to reduced the deficit to three, as Finland led 65-62 going into the final four minutes.
After a couple of empty exchanges, Ali Mackay scored off a Richards assist to bring GB within 1 with two and a half minutes left to play. Finland failed to capitalise on GBÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inability to defend and managed just 1/4 free throw shooting over the next minute and a half, giving them a slim 66-64 with 1 minute 13 seconds remaining.
Out of a GB timeout, Richards drew the foul and made both at the line to tie the game at 66 but Nikkarinen responded immediately with a layup at the other end to give Finland a 68-66 lead with 43 seconds left. Van Oostrum missed at the other end but GB secured the offensive rebound and Richards drew another foul, he once again made them both taking his personal tally to 28 points and tie the game with 29 seconds left before the final sequence played out.
GB will now face the other winless team in Group C, Luxembourg, tomorrow.