GREECE HOLD OFF GB

Great Britain were edged 61-59 by Greece in their second EuroBasket qualifier in Kozani.

After their defence wrestled away the early momentum for the visitors, the Greeks took the lead amid a 14-2 run in the the first half with their advantage eventually stretched out to as much as 49-39 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Despite a team-high 17 points and ten rebounds from Jo Leedham, the hosts withstood a late barrage with their shooters proving the more piercing as GB converted a paltry 2/27 from three-point range.

It leaves Chema Buceta’s side 1-1 after the opening round in Group D with their next series a double-header in mid-February, initially away in Portugal and then at home to Greece.

Still handily placed but with just a few fallibilities to address.

“We were close throughout the game and we had the chance to win the game. We didn´t manage to do so in the end, but we are satisfied we stayed close in a game,” Buceta said.

“I am proud of my team. I believe we are doing a good job and we have to look forward to the next games of the Eurobasket Qualifiers. We have to try hard no matter what the result is. This is basketball. You cannot always win, but we still have to continue fighting on the floor.”

It was Temi Fagbenle who was the initial totem with six of her 16 points coming in an opening period that brought a 6-0 run for GB that took them 13-6 ahead before the home side surged level with an immediate response of their own.

Leedham hit a three that bucked the trend early in the second with the rivals starting a combined 2-22 from beyond the arc.

It proved a high water mark as Greece found their range.

Georgia Stamati’s three came amid a 7-0 Greek flurry that gave them a first lead of the game, one they would ultimately never lose again.

Ahead 30-26 at half-time, the hosts were scooping up so much on their own defensive boards with second chances hard to come by for Buceta’s players against a tight zone defence in their wake.

And another 7-0 Greek run in the third forced GB into a timeout as Fagbenle and Leedham were ably corralled.

With a ten-point deficit to overcome, the latter broke out of her scoring drought to inspire a late rally with the game’s final seven points going to the guests.

But they could not get the shot they needed to force overtime with a potential opportunity spurned to foul on what turned into the last possession and potentially pull off the miracle.

“I believe we did a good job, but we had to face a great team such as Greece,” Azania Stewart said. “It was a good game, fascinating for the fans. I believe we are moving towards the right direction heading to the next games.”

Eleanna Christinaki had a game-high 18 points for Greece who top the group on 2-0.

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Israel, who lost in overtime to GB in the group opener, host Portugal in the other Group D contest.

Photos: Mansoor Ahmed

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