The UK Armed Forces men's basketball team has suffered a 55-96 defeat to Latvia in the opening game of a NATO competition.

Britain is one of seven countries competing in the SHAPE International Basketball Tournament at Mons in Belgium.

It initially looked promising for the British basketballers, with an even mix of Royal Navy, Army and RAF players represented.

The Armed Forces team started well and were in front for much of the first 10-minute quarter, at one point going 15-8 in front.

NATO international military basketball tournament, 2017

But that was as good as it got.

Latvia, who came third last year, gradually clawed their way back and by the end of the opening quarter the British were trailing 17-19. They never recovered.

In their aim to jump from mid-table to the top bracket the British had to beat Latvia.

NATO international military basketball tournament, 2017

Instead the Baltic basketballers - one of eight NATO teams in the tournament - dominated.

The final 55-96 scoreline was a bitter blow that nobody in the British forces side wished to discuss after the event.

Earlier in training head coach Flight Lieutenant Alistair Way had acknowledged his team's challenges. He told Forces Network:

"It's really easy to get a team together - until you have things like a hurricane in the Caribbean and that pulls away six of your players straight away."

"So trying to coordinate and get everybody there at the same time [is difficult].

"You can usually get about two thirds of a team at any one event. Trying to get the whole team together is very, very difficult.

"So to come up against teams like USA, who train regularly, to come up against Lithuania, who all train together, it's a big ask."

Britain has attended the SHAPE competition every year since it began in 1960 but has yet to win.

NATO international military basketball tournament, 2017

It's the only tournament that the Armed Forces team enters each year, although this time the side was only able to train together for 11 days.

Royal Marine Matt Sharpe, of 40 Commando, who was first selected in 2015, said:

"We train when we can, obviously work permitting, and then try and fit in our own individual training back at our home units whenever we can."

RAF Senior Aircraftman Jack Ford, who has been selected for the team four times, says basketball is now a growing sport in the forces:

"We're doing summer camps and festivals of basketball where people who haven't played before get a chance to come down. If they like it they can start coming through the development side. 

"The senior team, the junior team, they are both growing. [In] the women's team more players are coming [in] each year, so it's looking promising."

With the Latvia clash over and done with the UK team must now lick their wounds and prepare for tests to come.

Next up they face Canada and the USA, with the Americans oozing confidence at the minute.

Having won the tournament multiple times, they're hot favourites.

The UK players will be looking to bounce back though - and what better way to do so than by causing a big upset...

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