Great Britain's senior men produced a terrific first half display in the opening game of the Tbilisi City Hall Cup. But after a strong comeback from their opponents Belarus, they ultimately went down 68-77.
GB lose narrowly to Belarus as Tbilisi tournament begins
GB began with Devan Bailey, Myles Hesson, Gareth Murray, Dan Clark and Eric Boateng and looked to impose themselves in the first game of a four team tournament which also includes hosts Georgia and Moldova.
The first quarter saw GB Head Coach Joe Prunty's team take a five point lead early on, with Hesson's layup and Clark's 3-point play. But Belarus remained close in contention and an eight point run saw them first take and then hold a 12-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
But while they were merely efficient in the first quarter, the second quarter saw GB really get into their stride. An encouraging start saw GB gain a lead over their opponents but when Devan Bailey's drive to the basket made it 22-17, it kicked off a 20-4 run until the end of the half. While Clark's 8 points were perhaps to be expected, it was encouraging to see Van Oostrum also with 8 and Eric Boateng pick up 10 rebounds. A 40-21 lead for GB was well deserved, given their dominance on the boards (30-15).
A fightback from the Belarussians was to be expected in the second half but GB were equal to their challenge. Gareth Murray landed 3 consecutive threes while there were contributions from across the team. GB led by 15 with 4:37 remaining in the quarter, when Van Oostrum reached 10 personal points for the game. Clark went to the sidelines, but GB were unable to score another point, allowing Belarus to close GB's lead to 5 at the end of the quarter, (59-54).
Belarus poured on the pressure and scored 10 points without reply to take the lead at the start of the fourth, with Myles Hesson's jumper the first GB points. By this stage, GB trailed 61-64 and the game was slipping from their grasp. Kiryl Sitnik's drive for 2 to the basket and the extra for the foul from Hesson made it 20 personal points, with 2:55 remaining. The deficit for GB was up to 10 by this stage and while Kyle Johnson scored 5 points before the end, it couldn't prevent a disappointing defeat, 68-77.
Dan Clark was responsible for 13 points and six rebounds, while there was 12 points for Gareth Murray and ten each for Johnson and Van Oostrum. Hesson was two points away from a double-double, with eight points and eleven rebounds. A full list of game statistics is available here.
Head Coach Joe Prunty told gbbasketball.com,"It was a tale of two halves. We cannot afford to play that way. We must play for 40 minutes, on both ends of the floor, and it starts with defense."
GB are next in action on Sunday, when they face hosts Georgia at 1500 BST. There will be a live stream available of the game and you can follow the game here.
They then face Moldova on Monday at 1230 in their final preparation game before the start of the EuroBasket qualifiers, which begin on Sunday 10th August when Great Britain go to Iceland.
Make sure you get your ticket for the two home games which see Bosnia come to the Copper Box at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Wednesday August 13th and Iceland arrive a week later on Wednesday August 20th.
November has been a good month for British Basketball. With funding confirmed from Sport England for the next two years and Basketball Wales formally committing its long term future to British Basketball, alongside Basketball England and Basketball Scotland, there is a lot to be positive about.
Since its formation in 2006 to enable Great Britain teams to compete in FIBA and FIBA Europe international competitions, British Basketball has delivered significant progress on the court as evidenced by an unprecedented six appearances in European Championship finals by the GB men and women, first time appearances in A Division, medals at age group levels and our significant climb in world rankings during that time.