SIMPSON RESOLUTE AS GB PROVE POLES APART

Great Britain pounded Poland 75-63 for a perfect start to the qualifiers for Women’s EuroBasket 2021.

Never trailing in Walbrzych, Chema Buceta’s sported all the assurance of a group who had reached the Euro semi-finals last summer, delivering with enough poise defensively to spark an assured offense.

Good enough, even in the absence of Jo Leedham through a calf injury. Now, a victory over Belarus on Sunday in Manchester would put GB on the cusp of qualification in a three-team pool with little margin for error.

Reassuring, with one eye also on February’s Olympic qualifiers.

“I think its brilliant because we won by 12 points away to Poland which is a country with a strong tradition in women’s basketball,” the GB head coach said. “This confirms that we have improved a lot – EuroBasket was something big but now we are still winning games and this is a very important win for the new campaign

“It was tough – it’s true that we were winning by 14, 15 points for a long time but we had to work very hard to win this game.

“In the second quarter we had a difficult moment when they came back to within one point but we reacted with maturity and we were able to stretch out the lead again.”

Without Leedham, Buceta went for speed and subtlety with an initial three-guard line-up that accelerated out of the blocks at the Aqua Zdroj Arena and settled in as pests.

Karlie Samuelson, with freedom to roam, hit the first six of her 16 points in an early spell and with Chantelle Handy adding a three, the visitors led 9-0 and forced Poland into a time out before Marissa Lee Kastanek eventually broke their duck.

21-14 ahead after the first quarter, moving the ball well and with shooting to  match, the flow was disrupted when Rachel Vanderwal crashed to the floor clutching her left knee, falling awkwardly as she was fouled by Weronika Gadja in a drive into the lane.

Helped off the court, she would be able to later resume. In her absence, a battle commenced with the hosts closing to 23-22 midway through the period but then missing seven consecutive shots as GB stood up to the pressure.

Scoring was at a premium. Eilidh Simpson’s second three ended a barren spell but, critically, she was among a wall that denied Poland a field goal for over six minutes with a late flurry securing a 35-26 half-time advantage.

Quickly, a 6-2 run extended the lead to 44-31 with Poland coach Maros Kovacik openly vocal at his players in a time-out at his team.

It brought a limited effect. A technical foul against Temi Fagbenle arrived in a 7-3 retort from the home side that was interrupted by a corner three from Handy.

Yet although the Poles did a better job bodying Samuelson constantly, they were also giving up fouls and turnovers and a 7-0 GB run, that maximised their lead at 17, that effectively killed off this contest.

Down 61-46 headed into the fourth, there was no route back and a bench and coach tech against Kovacik deepened the host hole.

Simpson, performing as well as she ever has for GB with a team-high 18 points and a gritty guarding role, converted both free throws and then quickly piled more frustration with an additional three when she was picked out by Fagbenle with no defender in sight.

A brief response came with seven unanswered points that reduced the gap to 66-56 but Buceta’s defence calmly rode any wave.

The lone blight came when Handy, who scored 11, hobbled off with less than four minutes left, her right knee appearing to collapse.

But it was otherwise comfortable,  GB shooting 53%. Fagbenle – efficiently contributing 15 points and six rebounds – provided a nice icing with a three-pointer that put a cherry on the cake.

“The group of us has been together for a while now,” Simpson affirmed. “We know defence is where our game is and that’s what got us over the line.”

Kastanek paced Poland with 18 points with Cheridene Green adding 11 points and a game-high ten rebounds off the bench for GB.

Game Stats – Updates

Notes Starters: Vanderwal, Simpson, Samuelson, Handy, Fagbenle – Chantel Charles won a first cap but was DNP-CD.

Group F standings: 1. Great Britain (1-0), 2. Poland (0-1), 3. Belarus (0-0)

 

Photo: FIBA

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