under-20 men let a double-digit first half lead slip as they went down 91-71 against Austria in the European Championship B Division on Friday.
The tournament hosts had chalked up a come-from-behind victory against Belgium in their first game, and they repeated the trick to go top of Group C with a strong second half. With Belgium beating Denmark, GB are now assured of a place in the second phase of the tournament, but their final preliminary round game against the Belgians on Sunday will be key if they hope to progress to the semi-finals.
Andrew Lawrence led the British scoring with 18 points, with Ovie Soko adding 15 and Will Neighbour ten. Britain were out-rebounded 37-27 by an Austrian team who had Jesse Seilern and Anton Maresch each scoring 21 points.
Despite the margin of defeat, coach Lewis remained positive after the game: "In the first half we played some of the best basketball seen at under-20 level. "We were the better team, we executed exceptionally well and really took the game to them.
"Unfortunately we made a couple of mistakes early in the second half and they made us pay. When a team goes 60 percent from the three-point line, it's hard to stop. We made some changes, and we certainly weren't outplayed. We stuck at it, and if we'd made a couple more lay-ups and got a couple of stops at the defensive end it would have been a different game, the scoreline didn't reflect the game."
Eric Schranze opened the Austrian scoring with a pair from the foul line, but Alex Marcotullio replied for GB, and he kept Tim Lewis' team in touch with a second shot from downtown before Will Neighbour launched a 7-3 run that put GB into a lead they wouldn't relinquish during the first period.
Marcotullio hit his third three-pointer of the game with 3:41 on the clock, and with Andrew Lawrence and Will Hall also scoring from long-range, Britain went into the first break 27-20 ahead. The threes continued to drop for Britain as Lawrence opened the second period, although Thomas Klepeisz made it a seven point again with a similar shot.
Soko hit a pair of foul shots to keep Britain ahead, and five straight points from Ryan Martin made it 40-30 at the midway stage of the period.
But seven straight Maresch points took his tally to 19 for the half and made it three point game before Lawrence and Seilern exchanged three-pointers.
The Austrian run continued as Seilern gave them a 44-43 lead with 88 first half seconds remaining, but it was GB who went into the locker room with a slender 45-44 lead as Nigel Van Oostrum converted a lay-up with 54 seconds on the clock.
That lead quickly evaporated as triples from Romed Vieider and Sailern gave the home side a five point lead.
Myles Hesson broke the run, but Maresch scored what proved to be his only points of the half to give Austria a double-digit lead with four minutes of the period remaining, and three-pointers from Klepeisz and Lukas Linzer sent Austria into the final break with a 74-56 lead.
Four Soko points and a Lawrence scoring run saw GB open the fourth period with a 7-1 run to make it a 12 point game, but Seilern sunk a dagger three-pointer to end the comeback, and Tim Lewis' team never got the margin into single digits as Austria closed out the victory.