24 Oct 14
We caught up for a Q & A session with point guard Luke Nelson as he embarks on his second season with University of California, Irvine and having helped the under-20 team to their highest ever finish this past summer.
Following their taste of victory the previous day, GB came out determined to win their final game of the tournament and stormed to a 19-5 lead after 10 minutes of play. In the second, Ward demonstrated her strength going to the basket and making some tough finishes. GB increased the lead to 22 at half time as they kept Portugal to an impressive 13 points for the half.
Whilst the first half belonged to GB, the second was a completely different story as Portugal outscored GB 25-8 in the third period to cut the deficit to five going into the final stanza, 43-38. Jessica Almeida took control for Portugal in the fourth and a score from behind the arc followed by a steal and lay-up gave them the lead with 5:28 left to play. Whilst it may have looked as though an upset was on the cards, Ottewill-Soulsby kept her side in the game scoring eight of her points in the final period.
The GB team showed great poise in the final five minutes of play with Hynes and Joseph in particular contributing at the offensive end. Despite Almeida scoring 14 points for Portugal in the final period, it was GB who held onto the win and finished their tournament by defeating the team fourth in the standings.
Matt Johnson had praise for the entire team following the game: "It gives me great pleasure to see how far this group of young women has come over the time we have been at this year's under-20 European Championships.
"Today's game was certainly a deserved victory for many reasons. The first half was the best team basketball we have played in eight weeks of the programme and we fully deserved the margin we took into half time.
"The players followed the scout report to the letter and if it wasn't for a superhuman performance by Almeida we would have had a much bigger margin still.
"The most important time of the game for us was after we went down by one. Previous journeys have seen us run away from moments like this one but this time our growth and maturity was evident for all to see.
"The stats will tell you one story but this game was for our captain Rosie Hynes who completes her time with the under-20 programme and fully deserves to have finished with two back to back wins.
"I would also like to mention our under-18 girls who have done extremely well in difficult circumstances. Today we were led on the court by Harriet [Ottewill-Soulsby ]and Shequila [Joseph] but we were also led from the bench by Leah [McDerment] and Megan [Lewis].
"As a team we would like to thank all the people that have been supporting us back home and we have certainly laid the foundation stones for the 11 available returning players that have represented GB very well indeed.
"Lastly I would like to thank Lee Davie, Sarah Wagstaff, Darren Finnegan, Matt Smith and Jimmy Bower for being so patient with such a young group, continuing to believe and work hard when things were tough and for supporting me with tireless amounts of work and enthusiasm."