09 Dec 14
EuroBasket Women 2015 promises to be a fascinating battle for the Great Britain senior women as they bid to realise their Olympic 2016 dream.
Led by a game-high 15 points from Kyle Johnson, GB will take confidence from their defensive improvements and the problems they caused the Olympic silver medallists before Spain found an extra gear in the fourth quarter.
"There was a lot I liked," said GB head coach Joe Prunty. "There was just one stretch when we struggled late in the third and early in the fourth, and a run we didn't answer. But I thought we did a much better job defensively. The assists aren't where we want them to be but I still thought we moved the ball better."
An early 7-0 run from GB proved to be the first of their five leads during a thrilling first half that saw the momentum shift constantly. Johnson provided an offensive spark and London-born centre, Eric Boateng, was a tower of strength in the middle for GB.
With Arbroath-born forward Gareth Murray handed a first start, and Andrew Lawrence returning, GB found ways to unsettle a team laden with stars from the NBA and Euroleague. They were behind 21-20 at the end of the first quarter but did not settle for falling away.
Justin Robinson converted a three-point play and Myles Hesson, the young German-based forward, made his mark. With Johnson continuing to seize his opportunities, the score was level at 35-35 at half-time.
Just as at the Olympics last summer, when the eventual runners-up had to work to snare a narrow win, Spain were under pressure. But they found an extra gear in Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, who scored a team-best 14 points and sparked a decisive 14-6 run early in the third period to break GB's resistance for good.
And although the visitors finished with a flourish, a spurt of 14 unanswered points had put the Spanish beyond reach.
"We need everybody to play well," Prunty added. "I thought Kyle was solid. I thought Myles Hesson did a great job; he was 4/10 and a couple of his two-point shots he missed were put backs. Ogo Adegboye was also great. You can pick out a lot of people who gave us great contributions. But we need everybody firing on all cylinders."
British Basketball's National Teams Director, Warwick Cann added: "The score did not reflect the closeness of the game nor the opportunity for a win. There is progress as we head to our objective to win at EuroBasket."
Boateng added nine points and nine rebounds with GB captain Drew Sullivan scoring five points on his 100th international appearance.
For full box score see here.