Great Britain are going to EuroBasket 2022.

Their progress was confirmed when France saved their best to last on Saturday evening  to overhaul Montenegro 73-71 in Podgorica, three hours after GB had edged out Germany 83-81.

The result means Les Bleus and Les Brits will be the two qualifiers from Group G to reach next year’s finals, regardless of the outcome of Monday’s concluding game between the two in the Montenegrin capital.

“EuroBasket has been the goal from the start of this,” said Luke Nelson, the game-winning hero earlier.

“As British basketball we are always the underdogs. We want to be seen like we belong in this company. There are some great teams in Europe that we want to play against and prove ourselves against. And the only way to do that is to make it to EuroBasket.”

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It was a tense wait, however, with Vincent Collet’s men trailing 46-35 early in the third period and far from their pervasive finest.

But, paced by a game-high 16 points from Thomas Heurtel, the past champions crept back and it was the guard who ultimately clinched victory with two free throws with 13 seconds left.

Now for a first major tournament for GB’s men since EuroBasket 2017. And a boost to the sport’s credibility that is helpful indeed following the failure of their female counterparts to reach this coming summer’s Euros.

Right plays at the right time, twice, against Germany. Rarely dominant, but effective in enough spells, especially defensively.

“Although we felt Germany had put too many points on the board for us in the first half, credit to them,” said Steutel. “They executed well and were really purposeful in trying to exploit some advantages.

“But our guys were really resilient. Defensively, we were so disruptive in those last two minutes. We made the right play at the right time. And I felt we had five guys on the floor and everybody in our group locked in to get the right defensive stops.”

What a night. A tenth triumph in 12 starts. The only shame was it came behind closed doors, far from home. The party must wait.

France did GB the ultimate favour (FIBA)

And kudos, indeed to Steutel – and his assistants Andreas Kapoulas and Jamie Smith.

Pressed into service by the absence of head coach Nate Reinking, the man from Liverpool has had to adjust and adapt and perform above his experienced status.

Cometh the hour.

There were some ballsy coaching calls, whether instigated by the staff Montenegro or in consultation beforehand with Reinking from afar.

Something approaching a core six-man rotation to thwart the German with Dan Clark spelling just 15 minutes, Teddy Okereafor 12, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye seven and three DNP-CDs.

That takes quite some confidence. As was the last time-out when Steutel could be heard on TV, calmly running through the options.

His options.

“I feel like I’m a broken record with the guys because from day one in this position, I’ve spoken about collective responsibility.

“We’ve got some guys playing at different levels in Europe that we’re all really proud of and I’ve probably leaned on them as much as I’ve tried to offer some direction. I’m immensely proud.”

Top spot in the group will be on the line on Monday afternoon. GB would need to overturn the points differential from their 79-56 loss to the French last November in Pau.

That would be nice. Qualification – plus the extra perk of moving into the first phase of qualifying for the 2023 FIBA World Cup – is sweet enough.

Elsewhere, Bulgaria stunned Latvia 66-65 to reach the finals and keep their rivals out. The Netherlands will also return to the major stage with Turkey progressing from their group.

Belgium made it five EuroBaskets in a row as they crushed Denmark 88-65.

Images: FIBA

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