GB Women showed the reigning EuroBasket Champions Spain that they mean business in the competition as they pushed them all the way in the second game of the group stages.
Following last night’s morale-boosting victory against Latvia, on paper GB Women looked to have their work cut out for them against a powerful Spanish side.
Both teams started the game slowly, with errors on both sides and baskets in short supply. The early pace seemed to suit GB more than Spain, as they gradually grew in confidence throughout the first quarter. A three pointer from Chantelle Handy settled any early GB nerves, and a three from Georgia Jones later in the quarter showed Spain that GB could get their baskets close to the hoop as well as from beyond the arc. By the end of the first quarter, with the score tied at 14-14, Spain were looking unsettled and out of sorts, and clearly knew they were in a contest.
The early exchanges of the second quarter saw both teams begin to find a better rhythm and to increase the pace of play.
With five minutes left in the first half, a fast-break play gave GB a three-point lead, and Spain took a time-out to try find a way to assert themselves against a tenacious GB Women’s team who were proving more stubborn than they expected. The trading of baskets continued after the time-out, with Karlie Samuelson and Temi Fagbenle showing Spain that GB had a number of scoring options to choose from. When Temi Fagbenle got to the hoop to make it a five-point lead for GB, Spain again needed to talk it over with the score at 29-34 and less than a minute left in the half.
With both time-outs not having the desired effect for Spain, the first half finished with GB in the lead by 31-34, and with five steals underlining the determination of the GB squad.
The third quarter started with a long two from Spain’s Anna Cruz to cut the lead to one point, as Spain came out of the traps hungry to take control. But Handy responded by sinking another three-point shot to show that Spain’s increased pace was not going to force GB to buckle. With four minutes left in the third, baskets from Xargay and the highly-impressive Astou Ndour were not enough to get Spain back into the lead as they continued to make mistakes and GB continued to disrupt their opponents.
But with less than a minute left in the quarter, baskets from Ndour and Nicholls put Spain into their first lead of the second half, and a three-pointer saw them finish the quarter with a 48-43 advantage.
But it was GB who came out at the start of the fourth with the appetite to get back into the game, as Samuelson hit a three to cut the lead to two. Yet Ndour continued to demonstrate her star quality by popping up with crucial baskets time and time again, before Laia Palau got in on the act and hit four points without reply, with six minutes left in the game, giving Spain an eight-point lead. Finally Spain were beginning to find some rhythm in attack.
But GB were far from done. Four minutes left on the clock and Jo Leedham-Warner hit a three-point shot to remind Spain they were still in the game by cutting the lead to six. Fagbenle then cut the lead to four, before Samuelson then cut it to two with a fast-break opportunity. Leedham-Warner then got through to the hoop again and all of a sudden the game was tied at 57-57. The dogged underdogs were back with a chance to take a memorable win.
After another Spanish time-out, the reigning champions briefly found another gear to spare a nation’s blushes. Five quick points without reply in the closing minute forced GB into a succession of fouls to try and get the ball back, but the strategy didn’t allow them to cut into the deficit and Spain ran out narrow winners by 67-59.
It was a memorable display from GB Women in what has turned out to be a highly impressive showing in the tournament thus far.
The team now have a rest day before their final group game against the Ukraine on Sunday morning (tip-off at 11am).