The Warriors flew out to sunny Barcelona to challenge a range of international teams at the prestigious Euro Basketball Cup over a long weekend of high-end competition.
9 teams from Spain, Germany, USA and England were split into pools with the top 4 teams progressing through to the semi-final rounds. COHNEL were placed in Pool B against Santutxu (Spain) and A.E. Bout Mataro (Spain).
Santutxu 68 (1-0) Vs COHNEL 65 (0-1)
In their first game ever, outside of UK soil, COHNEL started off tentatively, unable to convert shots they’ve routinely made all season long – much to the anguish of head coach Jay Williams. However, Kane Smallwood soon settled nerves by converting the first basket of the game to finally get COHNEL going, 2 minutes into the game.
Once the game started to flow, it was clear the guard play of Santutxu’s Iker Moja and COHNEL’s Christian Arthur would have a heavy influence on the outcome of the game as both began to score freely. At one point, both guards seemed to be trading baskets in their respective efforts to propel their teams to victory. However it was Moja who was able to sustain the torrid pace, finishing with an impressive 34 point personal haul, to Arthur’s 23.
Santutxu led by 7 points heading into the last 30 seconds before 2 key scores from Smallwood brought COHNEL back to within just 3 points. Though the Warriors defense prevented Santutxu from scoring again, time ran out on the Londoner’s as they fell to 0-1.
Santutxu: Ikea Moja (34 points, 12 rebounds)
COHNEL: Christian Arthur (23 points, 7 rebounds)
COHNEL 75 (1-1) Vs A.E.Boet Mataro (0-1)
The Warriors had to win this game in order to stay alive in the tournament and came out with a much stronger focus on detail than in the first game. Smallwood was again amongst the points, scoring freely from the outside and around the basket, enroute to a game-high 24 point personal tally. However it was the leadership and determination from Gklori Santikou that appeared to fire up and lead COHNEL out to an impressive 13 point early lead, in the first quarter (20-7).
Santikou continued to boss proceedings in the second and third quarters, steering his team through to a comfortable 14 point lead at the half (47-33) and 17 points by the end of the third (63-46).
Everything seemed to be going to plan for the Warriors behind Santikou’s play, however, through a freak accident, the inspirational floor general had to withdraw from the game after suffering a dislocated shoulder in open play, much to the shock and concern of his teammates and coaching staff. However, he assured everyone he was okay as he was taken off to hospital for precautionary treatment.
With Santikou out of action, Mataro clawed their way back into the game, getting back to within just 3 points before time finally expired – allowing COHNEL to come away with the much deserved win, which they dedicated to their injured leader.
With a close loss in the first game and a good win in the second, COHNEL progressed through to the semi-final round – a fantastic achievement in their first ever international competition.
With Gklori Santikou sidelined with a shoulder injury sustained in the last game, head coach Jay Williams rallied his team together and expressed the importance of staying together and playing as a team to overcome the challenge of the unbeaten Americans. Though his words took a whole half of the game to sink in, the talk eventually did wonders for the Warriors as they fought their way back from a 10-point deficit to lead by 1 going into the last 3 minutes of the game.
The Americans came back again to take the lead by 1 inside the last minute of the pivotal game, behind their top scorer Tysean (21 points) only to have Christian Arthur make a quick move to the basket and draw a shooting foul with with just 5 seconds left in the game. Arthur stepped to the line for 2 shots, with his team down by 1, made the first but just missed the second, tying the game at 63 and sending the game into overtime!
In the overtime period, the Warriors were emotionally spent and watched as the Americans established a 6 point lead and hung on to win 70-64.
It was a valiant effort from COHNEL, who were just 1 missed free throw away from making the tournament final and knocking out the unbeaten Americans.
COHNEL: Kane Smallwood (16 points, 6 rebounds)
USA: Tysean (21 points, 4 rebounds)
3RD/4TH PLACE GAME: COHNEL (2-2) 74 Vs UNIVERSITAT DE VIC (1-3) 71
COHNEL faced off against Spain’s Universitat De Vic in the 3rd/4th playoff game – playing for pride and final tournament ranking position. Universitat De Vic had previously beaten the other London Academy also representing England in the tournament, Hammersmith College, by a convincing 27 point margin in pool play and so went into the game as form favourites.
However, COHNEL, still fuelled by their strong performance in the semi-finals, came out with a point to prove and outplayed their more experienced counterparts throughout the game, ultimately winning by 3 points (74-71).
COHNEL captain Thabiso Khoza saved his best game till last, leading his team in scoring with 17 points. Khoza was joined in double figures by Christian Arthur (17) and Joe Johnson (12), while Kane Smallwood finished off a fine tournament showing with 8 points in sealing the win for the Warriors.
Overall the Warriors finished the tournament in 3rd place, while playing the ultimate tournament winners Santuxtu closer than anyone else and feeling as though they very well could have won it all if not for the unfortunate injury to Gklori Santikou.
Head coach Jay Williams:
“It’s been a great experience for the boys, they’ve learnt a lot out here against some good international competition. If we had been at full strength I think we could have won the whole thing, but hats off to both USA and Santuxtu who both gave us great games and deserved to be in the final. The tournament hosts have been great and we look forward to coming back in the future to see if we can take it a step further and bring the title back to COHNEL”.