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With most of their big guns back in the line-up, England finished an otherwise disappointing European Championship campaign on a high note, avoiding last place in their group with a 92-84 victory over Portugal in Birmingham.
It was former local favourite Tony Dorsey who led the charge with a game-best tally of 23 points as the hosts surged clear in the first half to build a lead which their guests would never threaten.
Ahead early after a 14-2 start to the contest, Laszlo Nemeth's men extended their cushion before an announced 1,000 crowd to lead 52-35 at half-time in what could be the coach's final game in charge.
Portugal, who finish in sixth place, held England scoreless for three minutes after the break and rallied bravely to come within nine points in the third period.
Although Steve Hansell scored eight quick point to restore the hhome cushion, Portugal were spurred by some fine three-point shooting from Nuno Marcal and they made a late dash to trim the deficit to one in the final two minutes.
However Andy Betts scored a free throw and converted a rebound and with local hero Hansell taking his tally to 18 from the line, and another pair from Betts, the hosts ended their nine game barren run.
Ex-Bullets star Yorick Williams also added 18.
The England team handed Nemeth a gift of champaigne afterward, a strong indication that the players believe there will be a new man at the helm when qualifying for Euro 2005 begins.
"I just couldn't hold back the tears," said Nemeth. "Without a doubt this is the best relationship I've had with a team and it was proved today that we could do it."
Elsewhere in the group, Slovenia pipped Russia for the second qualifying berth after a resounding 92-80 win over the Czech Republic.
However Italy's 83-63 victory in Moscow failed to deny Russia a place in the finals in Sweden this summer as one of the leading third-placed sides.
The following teams qualifying for the Final Round, which will
take place 5th - 14th September, 2003 in Borås, Luleå, Norrköping, Södertälje and Stockholm, Sweden.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The draw for the final found of the final round of the championship will take place at 15:30 on 14th February 2003 at the Town Hall in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 16 qualified teams will be split into 4 groups of 4, each group playing round robin. The cities of Borås, Luleå, Norrköping, Södertälje will each host one group in the first round.
The top team from each group will automatically advance to the quarter-final stage of the competition. Teams placed 2 and 3 in each group will face an elimination game to determine which team advances to the quarter-final
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