Great Britain defeated Portugal 64-56 in a EuroBasket Women qualifier in Loule.

Chantelle Handy had a game-high 21 points and Temi Fagbenle added 15 points and ten rebounds as GB hit the game’s last 15 points in an extraordinary rally to improve to 2-1 and move top of their group on points differential.

The hosts were held scoreless for the final 5:52 of the contest in a brilliant defensive stand that turned a potential upset into a glorious victory with Fagbenle proving a dominant presence.

From unity, comes strength. And vice versa. When it counted, even in the absence of the injured Jo Leedham, GB came through, particularly defensively.

“It was a very difficult win because Portugal played very good basketball and they were leading most of the time,” said GB coach Chema Buceta.

“Really, we won the game in the last three minutes. But our team fought a lot so this is important. Sometimes it was difficult to find a way to attack. Portugal prepared well.

“But when this happens, it is important to keep fighting and be tough and keep playing. That was key.”

Resilience was needed, and then some.

Portugal raced into a 15-3 lead before GB, giving a start on her debut to Karlie Samuelson, were caught cold.

But Handy came off the bench, scoring eight in the second period including a three-pointer that capped a 10-0 run that truly brought Buceta’s side to life.

Down 32-31 at half-time, their cause was hindered when both Fagbenle and Azania Stewart were forced to temporarily sit on four fouls.

“But the other players did a very job in making sure we were still alive,” Buceta acknowledged.

Although the Portuguese, paced by 16 points and nine rebounds from Maria Correia, moved 54-47 ahead early in the fourth, they were flattened in a whirlwind of British verve and energy.

Handy was the spark plug off the bench

“Every win is definitely important for us as GB,” said Fagbenle. “We go into each game thinking we can win – because we can. We’re a strong team. We believe in each other and it showed today.

“We stuck to the end. We pulled through. We were down by 12 at one point but it’s a 40-minute game. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. we stuck together. And we came out victorious.”

GB now visit Israel on Wednesday, emboldened by beating them in Manchester earlier in the qualifiers.

“We know we can do it,” Buceta said.

Elsewhere in Group D, the Israelis edged out Greece 65-63.

Standings. 1. Great Britain 2-1, 2. Greece 2-1, 3. Israel 2-1, 4. Portugal 0-3


Game Stats


Photos: Mansoor Ahmed

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