Former NBA forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu delivered 27 points and 9 rebounds as Great Britain remained unbeaten in their European Championship qualifiers with a 104-96 win over Macedonia in Newcastle.
However Chris Finch’s men were forced to hold their nerve, rallying from seven points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime before they saw off their most dangerous rivals in front of around 2000 fans at the venue that will be home to the Eagles next term.
It should have been much simpler after GB opened up a 15-point cushion in the first quarter but the visitors eased back into contention to trim the gap to 47-43 at half-time.
The Macedonians maintained their push to go 83-76 in front with three minutes of regulation play left but the hosts rallied back from the brink, Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng hitting a three-pointer with 6 seconds left that forced an extra period at 87-87.
And after the lead changed hands four times, Mensah-Bonsu scored six points in quick succession to spark a decisive burst that killed off Macedonia for good, with Finch again rewarded from another series of clutch performances from captain Andrew Sullivan and Nate Reinking.
“For most of the game, even when we were down, I felt we were controlling the game,” said Finch. “We lost our discipline a bit on defence in the third quarter. There was some tiredness. We tried to change things. Our rhythm went down a bit. Sometimes, when you go 6 or 7 down, you feel you have no response but when we called time out, we felt we had a response. You have to make big plays and we were able to do that.”
Below: Pops’ post-game reaction, as told to his sister, Benny:
Deng added 23 points and 11 rebounds for GB, who visit Bosnia – who lost 74-70 in Hungary – on Wednesday.
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