Great Britain stayed alive at EuroBasket after defeating Germany 81-74 on Sunday in Ljubljana.
They now face Ukraine in their final group game on Monday, looking for another emphatic performance and, should they prevail, the chance to reach Round 2.
What stood out most was the play of young pair Andrew Lawrence – with a game-high 23 points – and Myles Hesson, who added 21 and 11 rebounds. Both were stellar, especially in a second half that proved a dogfight.
Character is not an issue, or persistence. Execution remains a concern, even if victory is all that really counts. Best of all, GB are still alive following a gritty display that underlined an increasing maturity that bodes well.
“It was hard fought game definitely,” said GB coach Joe Prunty.
“Both teams played extremely hard, very physical I thought our guys did a really solid job on both end of the floor. We were trying to focus on and two guys who have played very well, (Heiko) Schaffartzik and (Robin) Benzing.
“I thought did a great job on keeping them in check. On the offensive end, we got a lot of positive contributions from a lot of people. We had just seven turnovers which is a great effort. Andrew played his best game shot well, some great defence. Myles Hesson was great again. And Dan Clark played extremely hard, drawing a lot of attention out on the floor.”
It was another poor start for the British, a key factor in Prunty shaking up his starting line-up yet again by inserting Clark. The defence was sloppy with second chance points causing damage. Alex King, who scored nine inside three minutes, underline the slippage when he missed a free throw but converted the putback inside a 12-2 run that pushed Germans as much as 23-13 ahead late in the opening quarter.
But Clark keyed a concerted response and it was transformational. He hit a three to close the period, beginning an 11-0 run that put GB in front. Hesson was fearless, scrapping for rebounds, making solid plays and perhaps making a point to his former German club Ulm that he should be preparing for a second in the top flight BBL, rather than the second tier.
GB were forcing turnovers, employing a small guard line-up that often paired Lawrence and Devon van Oostrum. Although the Germans hit six straight points to ease five clear midway through the second quarter, chances were opening up.
Kieron Achara pumped his chest after starting and finishing an 8-0 run and the Scot drained another three which gave his side a 42-38 half-time lead.
Germany, also fighting to prove their rising stars can flourish, were never going to lie down and roll over. They ran tirelessly off screens, and battled for rebounds, and Britain were held for over seven minutes without a single field goal, relying unduly on Hesson’s ability to get to the line before ex-Mersey Tiger personally broke the spell.
And, critically, the Germans were being kept under control.
“Defensively we did a nice job against Schaffartzik,” Prunty declared. “We wanted to keep him in check. We had Myles on him at the start. Andrew some as well. We had to be physical.”
Up 59-56 at the start of the fourth, Lawrence took personal responsibility to turn up the heat. A pair of quickfire threes sparked an 8-2 run that forced Frank Manz to call a timeout with 5:18 left and his team down eight.
It was a race to stay afloat, to get over the line. Hesson was clutch, as was van Oostrum with five late points, and amid the tension, GB survived to fight for one more day, at least.
Now, there’s just the small matter of beating Ukraine, whose 77-71 loss to France – with Tony Parker hitting a game-best 28 points and inspiring a late run – means they also need to win to assure themselves of advancing.
“Every game at EuroBasket is important, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the previous outcomes,” Prunty said. “So we knew certainly that we have a tough task ahead of is. They’ve played extremely well to this point. So unquestionably tomorrow is a huge one.”
Tibor Pleiss had a team-high 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Germans but they will definitely be go home after the initial phase.
“We’ve had three close games and we couldn’t win one which is disappointing,” said coach Frank Menz. “We weren’t doing so badly. But our biggest problem has been turnovers and not getting tough offensive rebounds. Today we had 14 offensive rebounds but seven turnovers more than Great Britain.”
1. France (3-1), 2. Ukraine (3-1), 3. Belgium (2-2), 4. Great Britain 2-2), 5. Germany (1-3), 6. Israel (1-3)
GB starters: Lawrence, Johnson, Sullivan, Hesson, Clark
Elsewhere, Spain demolished Poland 89-53 after leading by as much as 46 while Russia confirmed their elimination with a late loss to Finland.
Group B. Bosnia 62 Macedonia 54, Serbia 80 Latvia 71, Lithuania 77 Montenegro 70 OT
Group C. Spain 89 Poland 53, Czech Rep 95 Georgia 79, Slovenia 74 Croatia 76 OT
Group D. Finland 89 Russia 83, Italy 81 Greece 72, Sweden 74 Turkey 87
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/BB
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