GBMIsr 568Great Britain snatched a magnificent 75-71 win in overtime over Israel on Wednesday in a dramatic EuroBasket 2013 first round opener in Ljubljana. 

And there were plenty of positives to admire, not least the willing that brought Joe Prunty’s men back from the dead when they trailed by nine late in the fourth quarter before holding their nerve to level at 66-66 and give themselves one more shot at an upset.

In the extra period, it went back and forth, missed free throws hurting Israeli hopes.

Kyle Johnson, who had an international career-high 22 points, drained a three. Ogo Adegboye went 1/2 from the line to tie at 71-71.

Hearts thumped, almost to the point of stopping.

It would come down to one play, perhaps two. Johnson drove and dropped in. 15.8 seconds left. Israel timeout.

It was Drew Sullivan, however, that had the last say, forcing a turnover and then downing two free throws which iced victory off an 8-0 run.

If every game in Slovenia is as good as this, we are in for a treat.

“We followed our gameplan,” Johnson said.

“We battled to the very end. We didn’t hang our heads when we were down nine with two minutes left. We just kept chipping away. We took our opportunities down the stretch. We made some plays.

“Everybody in the locker room stepped up big and we have to build on this going forward. It was a big win. But at the same time, we have four more games left in this group.”

Joe Prunty’s men gave as good as they got against a team favoured to make the next round, with Kieron Achara adding 18 points and 13 rebounds.

What more can they bring for Thursday’s clash with France, we wonder? Certainly, now, Slovenia will not bring a whitewash.

An invigorated GB side emerged. This was not the group who were cowered by Spain just six days before. Kyle Johnson was the basket like a magnet, hitting seven points in an early 10-2 run that was completed by a tip-in from Dan Clark.

Achara: career-high (FIBA Europe)

Achara: career-high (FIBA Europe)

It put the underdogs as much as eight ahead after less than five minutes, Clark showing no signs of the injury that his former club Zaragoza had claimed was so severe but which he, following extensive consultation, had felt able to shrug it off and return.

His shot was less secure, an inevitability given his lack of practice over the past month, but his return, off the bench, has clearly altered a damaged mindset. The Israelis were held to just four field goals in the opening quarter, bodies thrown at Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Omri Casspi in an attempt to throw him off stride.

With Eric Boateng quickly hobbled by foul trouble, Achara emerged with aplomb. The Scot converted a three-pointer which put GB ahead 25-19 in front early in the second quarter but it became a grind, neither side able to truly ignite and make an emphatic surge.

GB led 34-30 at half-time. Satisfactory, and certainly with more poise and assurance.

It continued, with Achara concluded a 7-2 burst that opened up a 43-37 gap. However Britain’s guards were ineffective and struggling from long range and the Israelis, within reach, turned up the heat.

Lior Eliyahu’s dunk levelled the game with 2:55 left in the third and the momentum brought an 8-0 run which took his side 52-47 ahead as the fourth period began.

The British backcourt, Johnson apart, was yet to score a field goal. That quickly changed. Andrew Lawrence hit a three, and then Justin Robinson tied the contest.

Prunty: delighted (FIBA Europe)

Prunty: delighted (FIBA Europe)

Israel shot back. Afik Nissim – who would have a team-best 15 points – drained three more. Their opponents would never be so close again. Casspi sparked a 10-2 run which opened daylight between the teams and with 3:08 left, they led 66-57.

But with grit and finesse, it was picked apart.

Myles Hesson, who added 14 points and delivered countless vital contributions, tipped in a stray shot which completed a 7-0 burst that forced Israel into a timeout with 34 seconds left with their lead down to 66-64.

Lawrence added two more but there was one more breath to hold as Yogev Ohayon missed a jumper that would have snatched victory in regulation. They were left to rue 17/32 shooting from the foul line but much more.

“Ultimately, it came down to the stretch when we were down nine late,” Prunty said. “We missed some free throws too but fortunately we were able to make a few more plays.

“But that’s what’s going to happen every night here. You have to battle.”

And they did.

The heroics, the killer punch came in overtime. What a game, it was.

“Today we saw the nice part of basketball,” Israel head coach Arik Shivek said magnanimously. “We started the game badly. Great Britain were leading. We came back. We were leading and controlling the game and went into a good lead.

“Then we came to a situation of getting two-point shots and missing free throws. We shot 1/10 at the end. That’s unacceptable at this level but that’s what happened. Some Israel fans might say that can’t happen. But it can. And that’s the great part of basketball.”

Eliyahu had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Israel.

Elsewhere, in Group A, Belgium came so close to an upset over Ukraine before Pooh Jeter’s three-point play with 3.1 seconds left snatched a 58-57 win.

Germany stunned France 80-74 with Robin Benzing scoring a game-high 19 points and Lucca Staiger converting two threes in 58 seconds which proved decisive as the fourth quarter neared its end. Tony Parker had 18 for the French.


EuroBasket, 1st Round, Group A (Ljubljana). Great Britain 75 Israel 71 (OT), Ukraine 58 Belgium 57, France 74 Germany 80. Group B: Latvia 86 Bosnia 75, Montenegro 81 Macedonia 80, Lithuania 56 Serbia 63. Group C: Georgia 84 Poland 67, Spain 68 Croatia 40, Slovenia 62 Czech Rep. 60. Group D: Finland 61 Turkey 55, Greece 79 Sweden 51, Russia 69 Italy 76

Twitter updates – Game Stats

Notes GB starters: Lawrence, Johnson, Murray, Sullivan, Boateng

GB practiced earlier in the day, with Dan Clark going through a full workout. It’s understood his return to the GB team was only settled last week after a late call, with medical advice from a leading sports doctor in Madrid, British Basketball, and the staff at Manchester City giving him the all-clear. “It’s up to Coach how many minutes he wants me to play,” he said. “But I’ll play as many minutes as he wants. I feel 100%.”

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