London 2012: Mensah-Bonsu leads British charge but Brazil inflict second defeat
Men’s basketball - Group B: Brazil 67 Great Britain 62
Tottenham’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu was the joint top scorer for Great Britain this evening, but the hosts suffered their second successive defeat in Group B.
Having lost against Russia on Sunday night, GB were firmly in contention throughout today’s clash against Brazil and were just one point down inside the final four minutes – but it was the South Americans who held their nerve to secure the victory.
Mensah-Bonsu, who went to Thomas More School in Wood Green and represented Haringey at the London Youth Games, scored 13 points – the same as Nate Reinking.
NBA star Luol Deng, who started his career at Brixton Basketball Club and represented Croydon in the youth Games was close behind with 12.
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Drew Sullivan, who also represented Haringey as a teenager, chipped in with two and was typically robust in the defence.
However, Britain were unable to get their campaign up and running and currently sit fifth out of the six teams in Group B, with the top four qualifying for the quarter-finals, as they eye their next clash with Spain on Thursday (8pm).
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Sullivan said: “We are really disappointed but we have got to pick ourselves up for a big game on Thursday.
“We matched up well with Spain [when we last played them]. We have three games left and want to win our last three games, because we didn’t come here for it to come down to the last two games to get through.”
Dan Clark added: “It’s not good enough just to compete at this level. We had chances to win. We had foul trouble but there’s no excuses. Everyone can play this level, we’ve got to be smarter at the end of the game.
“We’ll go away and refresh our heads. It’s tournament play and you have to forget, win or lose. We’ve got to make sure we’re fighting fit and ready to go.”
It was an unusually long-scoring first quarter, with Clark netting three times and Mensah-Bonsu converting two free throws as Britain took an 11-4 lead into the first break.
Mensah-Bonsu was furious when a Brazil hand illegally came up through to net to prevent him from finishing off Deng’s effort – and the tourists added insult to injury by going straight up the other end to score themselves, and then narrow the gap further at 13-11.
Joel Freeland completed a three-point play with a basket and a penalty shot, and Deng broke away before feeding Sullivan as Britain moved five points clear (20-15) midway through the quarter.
But Brazil fought back and, despite four points from Deng and a free throw from Mensah-Bonsu, they capitalised on some dangerous GB passing to make two interceptions and level the scores at 27-27 at half-time.
Three stunning finishes from Reinking – including two three-pointers – gave Britain a narrow lead at 35-34, and Sullivan and Mensah-Bonsu then combined to set up Freeland to extend the gap to three points after the interval.
However, that was as good as it got for GB as Brazil hit their stride towards the end of the third quarter and established a seven-point lead (50-43) at the start of the final period.
Clark and Reinking reined the Brazilians back in and a Deng three-pointer closed the gap to a single point (57-56) with under four minutes left.
However, it was the tourists who gained the crucial scores, netting three times in the ensuing 90 seconds to establish a six-point gap.
Deng had the chance to halve the deficit with three free throws - but he missed two of them and with that Brtain’s final chance disappeared.