Great Britain women’s first home appearance of 2013 ended in victory on Saturday as Damian Jennings’ side saw off Israel 73-64 in Guildford.
An 8-2 start, sparked by Stef Collins, ensured a bright start to the new coach’s first game in charge on home soil.
The visitors levelled briefly in the second period but after edging 31-28 in front at half-time, Rachel Vanderwal ignited GB to pull out a 10-2 run in the third quarter that saw them go 54-41 clear.
But the Israelis reeled off 12 unanswered points, holding their foes scoreless for almost five minutes, and then went 60-59 ahead when Shay Doron converted with 5:49 left.
Jennings saw the response he wanted. Chantelle Handy restored home advantage, starting a 14-4 burst that saw Britain to safety.
“I thought we made some great growth defensively and that was one of the detail areas we wanted to look at,” said Jennings. “It wasn’t about the win in fairness; that was a good the bonus.
“I think that the way we set up our defence and how we’re trying to trap the penetration, I think we did a good job there. You saw particularly in the last 2 or 3 minutes we were able to create possession for ourselves out of that.”
Collins and Vanderwal scored 12 points apiece. Liron Cohen had a game-high 13 for Israel.
GB now face Germany on Sunday on the second day of the four-nation tournament where Collins is expected to win her 100th cap.
However British Basketball officials expect to receive clarification in the next 24 hours over when, or if, Jo Leedham will join the team after failing to earn a WNBA deal.
In Saturday’s other game, Greece defeated the Germans 61-42.
Game stats - GB starters: Collins, Gandy, Handy. Butler, Stewart
Niall Gray’s Verdict
Niall Gray looks back on the first day of the British Basketball Invitational Tournament, which saw Damian Jennings get his first win as GB Women’s head coach, after his side defeated Israel, 73-64.
It’s a new era for the Great Britain Women and 3 weeks from now they will face a huge test in the shape of Eurobasket 2013.
Damian Jennings recently got the nod to lead the team into battle and all the players I’ve spoken to recently are excited about playing for Jennings at Eurobasket. Having served his apprenticeship under Mark Clark and then Tom Maher, the players all felt that Jennings was the right choice to take on the role.
It’s not going to be easy, given the retirements of the likes of Julie Page and Natalie Stafford, along with the absence of the injured Temi Fagbenle.
But Jennings might end up having Jo Leedham for Eurobasket after the star guard narrowly missed out on a spot on a WNBA roster. We’ll find out the answer to that one this weekend.
The most enjoyable thing about the win over Israel was the fact it was a total team effort at both ends of the floor. The crowd at Guildford were in fine voice and helped create a good atmosphere to match the good play on the court.
The player of the game was Stef Collins who had a fantastic game with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. The first quarter was dominated by the UWIC guard as she led the charge at both ends of the floor.
Collins will win her 100th cap against Germany on Sunday and at this rate, she’ll be winning a lot more caps for GB. One of the plays of the game saw Collins steal the ball at the top of GB’s key, then beat everyone down the court for a lay-up.
The third period was a purple patch for Rachel Vanderwal and she helped GB to their biggest lead at 54-41. She had not enjoyed a great game up until the second half, but suddenly it was as if she couldn’t miss and the shots began falling.
Vanderwal was also key in the fourth quarter as she was the only GB player scoring during a lean spell at the start of the period.
Other notable mentions must go to Kim Butler who made some key baskets at crucial times and Chantelle Handy, who looks like she will be a key part of the rotation this summer. Handy worked hard on the boards, sank some nice jumpshots and had showed great court vision to set up team-mates for baskets.
Azania Stewart and Stephanie Gandy were good in patches, and along with Rose Anderson, I believe they will all have at least one big game this weekend.
Of the new players to the fold, the one who stood out the most was Ella Clark. She looked nervous initially, but soon got into her stride and her six points in the second period helped ensure a half-time lead for Great Britain.
With the exception of Collins and Handy, who both played over 30 minutes, Jennings spread the minutes around and I expect that to continue all weekend as he works out who will make the cut for Eurobasket.
The win against Israel was impressive, but it’s only one game and they don’t really count until mid-June in France. But it’s a start and I’m hoping they build on this performance and put in two more big efforts over the weekend.
I’m optimistic they can do it.
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