Scotland go 2 for 2

Keiron Achara Scottish Basketball

Team Scotland make it two wins in two.

Scotland came off a high from the win over England and faced AfroBasket nation, Cameroon. After England demolished India last night and Cameroon also claimed victory over the Indian team, a victory today would send them as clear table toppers. Today’s contest is not one that Scotland can circle a win, this Cameroonian team is very athletic and is coming off a very successful run in the 2017 AfroBasket competition.

Scotland started with the same 5 as they did against England and used their perimeter threats to run out to an early 6-1 lead behind deep three’s from Rocks’ duo Murray and Achara. Cameroon tried the same approach but nothing was falling, with no set offence they were throwing up any slightly open look they could find in a rush. Ali Fraser dominated his man down low and showed a class array of post moves for an easy two gave Scotland a 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter. Youngster Sean Nealon-Lino was again, the first to check in off the bench. He made an immediate impact on the defensive end, hustling hard trying to save the ball ay opportunity he could. Chris Cleary also checked in and came out like a man on a mission as he crashed the defensive and offensive glass. Fouls became an issue for Bevo’s men but it didn’t cost them as Cameroon shot an 2/6 from the line and failed to hit anything for the last 7 minutes of the game due to the suffocating Scottish defence. Cleary played pivotal to Scotland’s offence in the final minutes of the 1st period as he passed to open looks and attacked the basket, making “really smart plays, being an example out there” as the TV crew said. Scotland led 15-4 at the end of the first period, no danger so far as Cameroon only shot 6% from the floor but did grab 8 offensive rebounds.

Fraser continued to dominate down low for Scotland, causing issues for the Cameroon defence. The Cameroonian guys kept grabbing offensive rebounds but could only muster 1 point from a freethrow in the first 2 minutes of the 2nd quarter. Cameroon finally managed to use their offensive rebounds and convert as Franck Yangue came up flying and threw it down to make the game 16-7 with just over 7minutes left. Bevo called time and demanded his men actually grab some defensive rebounds, sensing that their comfortable lead could evaporate if things continued. “By law of averages, one of their 3point attempts must fall” and on their 9th attempt, one finally did for Cameroon as they closed the gap to 6, Scotland coming up empty on the offensive end as the Cameroon coach, Jean Ntep, sorted out his defence. Kieron Achara was playing out of his skin with the effort he put on show for the crowd, putting his body on the line to hustle for the offensive rebound and drawing his 2nd charge as he beat his man on transition. With 3 minutes left, the action turned to right under the basket as Cameroon blocked Scotland several times on the one possession failing to grab the rebound but protecting the basket very well, gaining a reaction from the crowd. A tough tip rebound from Fraser Malcolm straight to Murrays hand left him wide open as he sunk the 3 to give Scotland a 13 point lead with a minute left only for him to hit a deep 3, really deep, it was near the halfway logo… At half time, Scotland led held a comfortable 29-15 lead, plenty for Rob Beveridge to talk about at the interval.

Fraser Malcolm opened the scoring for the 2nd half on a wide open 3 in the corner following a Cameroonian offence that hadn’t changed since the first, a miss and an offensive rebound and a turnover. Scrap that, the 2nd period was much better for Cameroon offensively as they hit a 3 and 2 highlight plays as Bogmis and Kome slammed home 2 statement dunks over the Scottish defence. Bevo called for discipline and urgency as Cameroon put up 10 points in the first 3 minutes. Cameroon came back from 26 points down against India and Jean Ntep will be hoping for the same today, it was looking likely as Scotland turned the ball over several times giving Cameroon the ball back and a chance to score. Score they did as the deficit was cut to 7. Ntep used his bench more and they thanked him for the chance by playing great defence and started converting their 3 point attempts. Things went from bad to worse for Scotland as Mike Vigor attacked the basket but was unfortunate to be called for the offensive, putting his team into team fouls with just over 2 minutes remaining. Scotland had no urgency in their offence when they had a sideout ball with 2.8s left on the shot clock allowing Cameroon to race down the court and Franck Yangue to convert on an and one to cut the margin to 2. A Cleary turnover allowed the Cameroonians possession with 26s left and a chance to tie the game up. Scotland couldn’t rebound the ball and sent their opponents to the line, which game to no avail. Clearly was granted a chance to make up for his turnover at the line and gave his nation a 4 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter, 44-40.

Cameroon’s Essome hit a deep 3 to start the final quarter and the comeback was on as they only trailed by 1. Scotland struggled against the high-pressure defence, Beveridge will be furious that his guys allowed 30 offensive rebounds and continued to lack hustle on the defensive glass. Jonny Bunyan joined in the scoring as he hit a beautiful text book 3 coming off the screen to get the lead back to 4 for Scotland. Scotland’s hearts stopped as Achara went down clutching his face after an elbow, nevertheless he was resilient and converted the freethrow off the Technical foul charged to Cameroon Coach Ntep. Scotland led 48-43 as a messy possession resulted in a turnover, Murray tracked back but was called for a unsportsmanlike foul, momentum shifting potentially, Rob Beveridge became very vocal from the coaching box towards his 5 guys on the floor. Scotland quietly broke out to a 12point lead behind some excellent personal play from Rocks’ star Gareth Murray. 18 year old Sean Nealon-Lino was receiving career high praise as he hit a rainbow 3 off a perfect backdoor baseline cut to give Scotland a 58-50 lead with 2 minutes remaining. Gareth Murray iced the game for his Scottish boys on a pair of freethrows and a 3 in the final minute of the 4th as Scotland claimed victory 63-52 over Cameroon.