This year the U18 Men’s European Championships Div B were held in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. There were some comments along the lines “Macedonia again!”. However, as the Men’s U18 Div A tournament, scheduled for Turkey, was cancelled less then a week before the first tip off, “Macedonia again” didn’t seem so bad.
The Basketball tournament was a great advertisement for young European Basketball. Our Group consisted of 6 teams, ourselves, our hosts Macedonia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Cyprus. It was a tough group, with 3 very strong teams, but having said that we could have done better. We inexplicably lost our first game to Cyprus by a narrow margin, a team we comfortable beat in our last game. Macedonia were a team we could have beaten on a good day, but failed to. Although we put up valiant performances against strong Hungarian and Bulgarian teams, we came off second best. However, with each game played improvements in the teams performance could be seen. Our final group game was against the much fancied Poles, at that point top scorers in the competition.
After the Polish game we went into the classification game against Romania with confidence levels high. The game started well, Connor scored the first basket followed by a 3 soon after, we were 7 – 0 within the first minute. At the end of the first qtr we were 5 up, this was 7 up at half time, supporters were confident.They had pulled back 2 at the end of the third, but we were still happy. In the middle of the 4th they started a run and we started missing shots we came back at the end but an 11 point turnaround meant we lost by 6. Although there were some mitigating circumstances, the game was played on a day when the temperature was 36 Celsius and the hall had NO air conditioning! Supporters consumed 2 litres of water just watching, that aside we should have won, this was a body blow.
In the group stages we felt we should have beaten Cyprus and perhaps Macedonia, but here we should have beaten Romania. We next played Albania, not a team with great skill but very physical bordering on rough. We lost by a point… A game we should have won and won well, conditions were not great, there was a thunder storm raging outside that claimed the lives of 20+ people in the area ( puts things into perspective ). The power went and a generator was used, the lights were inconsistent throughout the game. there was a stoppage as a rain leak endangered the officials table and the electrics and electronics were dried and moved to safety. There was great despondency after this game.
The next day we played the final game against Cyprus the team we opened with. Our guys played as we knew they could and won comfortable by 16. Great performance and celebration afterwards.
In summary, although we only won one match, it could so easily have been more. The team were just that, very much a team, worked for each other throughout. Connor had a good tournament, starting 5 in all matches, although at the end of the day he would liked to have had more then one victory, as would all the team. In truth they deserved more.
So we ended on a high, as always the Craic was mighty throughout, the guys came away having had a great experience. The more we compete in these type of competitions the more we learn and improve.