- National Teams
Great Britain’s dreams of moving to a fourth consecutive Final Round appearance looked to have evaporated in Manchester, but a heroic late run against Montenegro delivered an absorbing 71-67 triumph.
The National Basketball Performance Centre at Belle Vue was bouncing after a pulsating and gutsy comeback from the home side who had found themselves trailing by ten points inside the last quarter.
“That was awesome and the crowd was just amazing,” said GB’s Azania Stewart. “They really got behind us and we found a rhythm just when we needed to.
“I am really proud and really happy with the win as keeps our EuroBasket Women 2017 hopes open and we can now go back to our clubs and enjoy the rest of the season, knowing we will be back for the last qualifying window in November when we play Italy and Albania.
“Montenegro are a great team and very smart. They have real size and great guards so this kind of win against a quality opponent has been a long time coming.”
Head Coach, Jose Maria Buceta added:
“We have been working hard and have improved a lot. We have enjoyed a great camp, but in basketball you have to go ahead and win the games and I credit the players for that.
“This was a reward for them and proved that we can be a competitive team. When you are at home, you need a crowd that will support you in the key moments and they did a great job at the end of the game in helping us to win.
“We have to continue in this manner because it is important that the team continue to score and everybody plays with confidence and maturity.
“It is just a great result for GB basketball and for the programme.”
Both teams had shared the spoils in the opening quarter until Montenegro enjoyed the better of the closing stages and posted a late run to move 23-17 – helped by Jelena Dubljevic, fresh from having penned a WNBA deal with the Los Angeles Sparks.
However Great Britain came storming back at the start of the second period and it had the visitors calling a quick time-out after they posted a dazzling 12-0 run, which saw some terrific team basketball.
With Jo Leedham leading by example, Ella Clark continuing her rich vein of form and some brilliant ball movement, GB surged 29-23 ahead. Only Montenegro hit back and squeezed out a 35-33 advantage at the interval to set up the second-half beautifully.
The intense tussle continued, and it looked all over for GB when Montenegro posted powerful run either side of the third and fourth quarter break to move 58-48 in front.
However, having been asked a serious question by their opponents, there was an emphatic answer in the form of eleven consecutive points, as incredibly Leedham gave GB the lead.
The good work continued and another superb burst put them 64-60 ahead, this time Leedham scoring again after a go-ahead triple from Rachael Vanderwal.
As Montenegro looked for a response, it was a killer blow from Ella Clark that effectively sealed the deal. She hit a massive clutch three-pointer from the corner with the shot clock ticking down – that made it 67-62 and GB never looked back as they held on for a famous win.
Leedham poured in a fabulous 28 points and Clark secured her second double-double of the week with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The victory lifts GB to 2-2 in Group C, along with Wednesday night’s opponents – although Italy are in pole position after moving to 4-0 with a win in Albania.
Image Credit: Mansoor Ahmed/Ahmedphotos