Luxembourg head coach Ken Diederich tried to keep his emotions in check following his nation’s surprise 82-75 win over Great Britain in their final Eurobasket 2017 qualifying encounter but he admitted that he would probably fail to sleep for a few days.
Coaching a team made up of one professional and eleven part-timers for whom the majority are bankers, it has been a long wait for a victory of any kind with the Luxembourgish press in attendance and even Diederich himself unsure of when their last taste of success was. You would have to go back to 2000 for their last win when they defeated Georgia and none of the current team were in that line-up.
So after narrowly losing their previous two home games to FYR of Macedonia and then to Hungary, it was no surprise that Luxembourg – knowing that their predicted fate was known beforehand – celebrated like they had qualified for next year’s Eurobasket.
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“I’m incredibly happy for my guys and they fully deserve this moment,” said Diederich.
“We only have one professional amongst our ranks and the others all have full time jobs around Luxembourg City so basketball isn’t their job. So to beat a team like Great Britain, who have an NBA coach, ex-NBA players, seasoned pros and college stars is a wonderful feeling.
“I must admit, I’m trying to keep a cool head right now, but it will be hard to sleep tonight, maybe it will be hard to sleep for a few days but the feeling that I have is probably double for the players.”
After falling behind by as many as 13 points, Luxembourg looked straight at yet another defeat and another zero in the win column for another year, but after a timeout, coach Diederich told his players to go to a zone. GB had shot the ball horribly from deep, no thanks to the springy rims, which the Brits were not used to.
“I went zone because Great Britain were not attacking the basket enough in my opinion,” Diederich declared.
“So I decided to go to the zone defence and make life difficult for their bigs as Gabe Olaseni and Eric Boateng were dangerous, and it worked. This gym is not one for shooters and we knew that and thankfully it worked in our favour.”
On the other side, qualification for next year’s Eurobasket was ultimately secured mid-way through the third quarter for Great Britain but it doesn’t hide the fact that they were on the wrong side of undoubtedly one of international basketball’s greatest upsets.
For the GB fans that were present in Luxembourg, they had mixed feelings post-game as while they saw their team qualify for Eurobasket, they could not help but feel disappointed and slightly embarrassed about the scoreline.
But, despite the result, the players took the result on the chin and saw the bigger picture.
“Credit tonight where it’s due to Luxembourg,” said Great Britain’s Kieron Achara. “They were phenomenal. They pressed. They were hungry. They wanted it more than us. You could see that. And they out-hustled us and shot the ball extremely well.”
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed