Spain edged Great Britain 67-65 in a last pre-EuroBasket tune-up in Madrid.

With both having already vanquished Sweden this weekend, it gave the home side the spoils in the Torneo de Fuenlabrada.

Nevertheless, what an astonishing performance from their guests. Led by 21 points from Karlie Samuelson, they harangued the world’s number-two ranked squad until the bitter end and so nearly stole one of the country’s finest-ever victories.

No points for not-quites. When these two sides square off again in Riga next Friday in their second group game at Women’s EuroBasket, the stakes will be infinitely higher.

But Chema Buceta’s troops can take so much from this, their best performance in a build-up that totals three wins and three losses.

To say that the reigning European champions were caught cold at the outset is an under-statement. Frozen out completely as Samuelson’s lengthy range catalysed a 13-2 start for the guests, Lucas Mondelo’s side took an uncharacteristic age to rouse themselves.

Inevitably, their awakening calmed nerves with nine unanswered points immediately in response.

However GB captain Stef Collins picked a valuable time to affirm her worthy role off the bench on this roster, halting their charge and then combining with Samuelson for rapid threes as the cushion was returned to double figures.

On home soil, the Spanish are no shrinking violets. They hit back hard. Their experience has seen tougher examinations in recent times.

Rallying in the second with a 16-4 burst, they edged in front for the first time before a 39-39 deadlock was secured at half-time.

And then it became a battle of defence and will in which GB, a little surprisingly, gave just as good as they got.

Both collectives were adept at forcing contested shots late in the 24-second clock and it brought a slugfest, with just 14 points in total in the third with three of the British eight captured from a wing three from Janice Monakana.

Still, the Spanish coach on the sidelines with more adjustments required was Mondelo as Jo Leedham aggressively threw herself into attack mode.

The ferociousness came at a price. Chantelle Handy fouled out with 5:48 left with her team up 60-54. Buceta, with some confidence, turned to young gun Cheridene Green.

However, La Roja kept scrapping and they got breaks. Laura Nicholls capped a 8-1 run that put Spain 62-61 ahead with less than 90 seconds left and although Samuelson converted 2/2 from the foul line, Nicholls corralled an offensive board and fed Marta Xargay for a lay-up that restored the home lead.

Leedham’s relentless imposition remained. Splitting a double-team to draw yet another foul, she was all calmness as the pendulum swung once more.

Time out, Mondelo. Another crack at landing a fatal blow. GB forced their hosts to the very last second of the shot clock before Anna Cruz drained a jumper to give the Spain a 66-65 lead with 16 seconds left.

Improbably, Monakana was open, within short range on the baseline, with a glorious opportunity to punch back. Maddeningly for the Sevenoaks Suns wing, she found nothing but air.

With Xargay sent to the foul line with 4.6 seconds left and making a single conversion that took her to a team-best 15 points, it needed a prayer in response. And although Leedham, who added 16 points, drove full court, her off-balance scoop shot missed its mark.

Triumph, reverse,just a small bounce either way.

The Goliaths survived. Only just though. “It will be a different game at EuroBasket,” Mondelo declared. No matter. A true positive for GB even in defeat.

Next stop: Riga. And a EuroBasket opener against Latvia on Thursday.

“We’re ready for war,” Temi Fagbenle declared. Let more battles commence.

Spain 67 (13+26+6+22): Palau (3), Cruz (9), Xargay (15), Nicholls (12), Ndour (8) – Domínguez (8), Ouviña (8), Casas (0), Vilaró (0), Gil (4), Pina (0), Abalde (0)

Great Britain 65 (21+18+8+18): Jones (0), Handy (5), Leedham (16), Fagbenle (9), Samuelson (21) – Collins (5), Vanderwal (0), Shaw (0), Campbell (0), Monakana (3), Green (6), Simpson (0).

Photo: BB

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