Team GB bounces back

On September 26, 2008 by

The Great British basketball team celebrated a triumphant EuroBasket campaign on Monday night as the qualification stages for next year’s European Championship came to an end. Despite losing their first match 102-92 at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Chris Finch’s team defied the odds and claimed convincing victories over the Czech Republic and Bosnia. They lost their final match against Bosnia and Herzegovina but still qualified top of Group D with ten points. The result marks the first time that Team GB has qualified for the European Championships in almost thirty years.

In their first match on the 3rd of September 2008, Team GB were cruelly beaten in overtime by a relentless Israel team, despite having led 85-83 with three seconds remaining on the clock. Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Luol Deng both fouled out, leaving Britain with few options going forward. The absence of giant centre, Andrew Betts, due to injury was felt as Israel claimed a further six points in the final minute, a fitting end to a match branded a ‘dogfight’ by Finch.

Their first victory came against the Czech Republic at the O2 arena, with Nate Reinking claiming twenty-two points. Luol Deng, who has recently signed a new contract deal worth six million dollars with the Chicago Bulls, pulled out all the stops in Great Britain’s next game, scoring 29 points to help the team defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina 82-74. The victory came as a relief to a team who have struggled with injuries and insurance issues since the beginning of the tournament.

The second leg against Israel was played in Liverpool. Forwards Deng and Mensah-Bonsu scored 42 points between them. Nick George grabbed another 15, whilst fellow bench player Joel Freeland proved his worth with 13 points and a few rebounds. The 96-86 final score marked a turning point for the team, as they finally managed to defeat their biggest rivals and with only two games left to play, were sitting pretty in second place.

Great Britain’s victory over the Czech Republic in Pardubice guaranteed them a position in next year’s European Championships. The second leg was much more difficult than the first and with three seconds to go, Czech player Welsch threatened to destroy Team GB’s qualification hopes altogether. British captain, Andrew Sullivan, made it clear that both teams had everything to play for: