A fine double-double from Dominique Allen catapulted Great Britain senior women to a fourth win in five games as they took down FYR of Macedonia 71-60 to move within touching distance of a third successive EuroBasket Women Final Round appearance.
GB set up thrilling finish with comfortable win over F.Y.R. of Macedonia
Playing in the penultimate game of their EuroBasket Women 2015 2nd Qualification Round campaign, Allen was the standout player with 15 points and eleven rebounds as Great Britain eased to a third straight success in Group B.
Back on parade at the University of Worcester Arena, the home fans made plenty of noise to welcome the return of the players from a gruelling three game road trip and it helped in overcoming the pesky visitors, who produced some of their best basketball of the summer.
Indeed FYR of Macedonia had even taken the lead late in the first quarter, but free-throws from Nicole How and a score on the fast-break from Stef Collins got Great Britain back on level terms heading into the second period.
The Great Britain players really got into their offensive stride ahead of the interval, with an 11-5 run leading up to the break putting them 44-35 ahead, with Rachael Vanderwal and Lauren Thomas-Johnson both making telling first-half contributions.
With Givens having already poured in 21 points, Great Britain knew they couldn't let their foot off the gas when they re-emerged from the locker rooms. Early scores in the paint by Azania Stewart and Allen helped to solidify their advantage and when Temi Fagbenle scored four points in a row following a triple from Thomas-Johnson, Great Britain were 62-44 and effectively out of sight.
FYR of Macedonia showed lots of resilience during the last ten minutes and did a good job defensively to contain Great Britain and repair some of the damage, but it still remained a comfortable success for Coach Buckle and his team.
"We had a bit of a slow start and I think Dom (Allen) coming into the game gave us a real spark which helped to get us going," said the play-caller.
"Lauren Thomas-Johnson also gave us a high quality performance today and that was important too. We now move on to playing at home to Lithuania on Wednesday and in this process of becoming better players and a better team, we will take things out of what happened when we lost against them last time.
"It's critical that you take positives as well as lessons learned and we will evaluate things in even more detail as we prepare for this last game."
In addition to the double-double of Allen, there was an array of other excellent displays for supporters to savour, including 15 points, five boards, two assists and two steals from Vanderwal along with 15 points and four rebounds from Thomas-Johnson.
But that wasn't the only good news for Great Britain on Sunday. After the game, news filtered through to the camp that Belgium had produced a surprise 91-81 win over Group B leaders Lithuania in Kedainiai.
The two results shake up the group to such an extent that the winner of Great Britain's final game with Lithuania at the University of Worcester Arena will be crowned as Group B winners and qualify directly for EuroBasket Women 2015. The losers will have to wait to see if they have booked a place in next year's finals. They will need to be one of the best five runners-up from the six 2nd qualification if they are one of the top five runners-up from the six groups.
Fans are being urged to get closer to the action and ensure Great Britain can finish the job. Now is the time to book your ticket and be part of a vibrant home atmosphere to cheer on Great Britain to another EuroBasket Women Finals. You can reserve your place here.
The Great Britain senior women will appear at a third successive EuroBasket Women Final Round next summer and that makes for a very important 2014-15 club and college season for those candidates wanting to be on the plane to Hungary and Romania.
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.