LEEDHAM HEROIC IN MANCHESTER

Great Britain’s women survived overtime to beat Israel 90-87 in their opening EuroBasket 2019 qualifier in Manchester.

Chema Buceta’s side were led by 22 points and 13 rebounds from Jo Leedham with the France-based forward hitting a decisive late lay-up that shut the door to the gritty guests.

But how hard they had to work for the victory with one extraordinary assist from Chantelle Handy at the close of regulation.

The returning Leedham sparked a 10-0 run that took the hosts 23-17 in front early in the second period but Israeli pressure forced turnovers and keyed a 14-2 burst that took the visitors 36-30 ahead at half-time.

Playing without long-time stalwart Shay Doron, Israel were hit hard in the third with Leedham again instrumental in a 10-3 opening spurt that give GB renewed vigour.

Back and forth it when. Small flurries but no decisive push. Leedham sparked a mini-spurt that put GB up 67-62 ahead midway through the fourth but seemingly unmissable scores were squandered and mistakes made and it hindered their cause.

Fagbenle impressed on her return (Mansoor Ahmed)

Buceta was forced into a timeout with 1:34 left when Dannielle Diamant converted a three that put Israel 72-71 in front and her subsequent putback left nerves on edge.

Temi Fagbenle drained a precious three to level but it looked like a dagger when another trey from Shiran Zairy arrived with ten seconds left that silenced the Manchester crowd.

But Handy has come up big for GB before. 5.7 seconds remaining, under pressure, the Olympian converted from long-range to force overtime.

And Israel – paced by 23 from Katia Levitsky – were eventually burned off with Leedham, as ever, clutch.

“I think we played against a very good team today in Israel. They showed today that they are very strong and they have good shooters and they play good defence,” Buceta said. “We were able to play at that level today and finally win the game. We were six points down at halftime but the girls did great job to overcome that situation.”​

Georgia Jones added 14 and Handy 13 for GB, who now travel to Greece for their second qualifier on Wednesday in Kozani. Elsewhere in Group D, the Greeks beat Portugal 66-60 in their opener.

Game Stats

Only the group winners are sure to progress to the finals in Serbia and Latvia, along with six of the eight runners-up joining the co-hosts in the final.

There were a clutch of competitive debutantes, including Hannah Shaw and Hannah Sunley-Paisley, while Dominique Allen was among those left out from the original squad.

 
1 Siobhan Prior Guard Nottingham Wildcats
4 Georgia Jones Guard Manchester Mystics
6 Stef Collins Guard Cardiff Met Archers
7 Rachael Vanderwal Guard Ferriol (ESP)
8 Chantelle Handy Forward Team Northumbria
9 Eilidh Simpson Guard Cardiff Met Archers
13 Jo Leedham-Warner Forward Villeneuve (FRA)
14 Azania Stewart Centre TTT Riga (LAT)
16 Temi Fagbenle Forward CCC Polkowice (POL)
20 Hannah Shaw Centre Nottingham Wildcats
21 Hannah Sunley-Paisley Centre Reze (FRA)
23 Melita Emanuel-Carr Guard CABC Basket (FRA)

 

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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