Great Britain crushed Latvia 74-60 in their Women’s EuroBasket opener in Riga.

As a statement of intent, it was formidable and loud.

A barrage led by a game-high 24 points from a relentless and merciless Jo Leedham did everything but drown out the drums from the home crowd on Thursday as Chema Buceta’s side got the start they wanted in the group phase of this tournament and more besides.

Aside from a brief stutter in the second period, it was quietly impressive.

16 unanswered points in the third effectively bolted the door shot on the co-hosts. However there were bold moves throughout that paid dividends. Buceta likes his side to play risky. Here, they were underdogs but bet wisely on themselves.

Spain, who shook off early stutters to crush Ukraine 95-77 in their opener, will be tougher on Friday. Confidence, now, will not be in short supply.

“It was a very good day for us,” Buceta said. “When we lost our concentration in the second quarter, we knew we had to play a very good game. Especially in the third quarter, we played really good defence. And I think that was the key.”


GB looked ominously focused when they overturned their lone deficit with an early 8-0 run, throttling the Latvians in transition and then turning to Leedham and Karlie Samuelson to ignite a three-point barrage.

The bench too held their own. Janice Monakana had a terrific defensive stop and a three in a quick cameo and then Leedham maintained her assault, holding up her hands in a ‘See That’ move as she buried a second three in speedy succession amid a haul of 13 in the opening period that gave her side a 24-17 lead.

Ball movement provided good looks.

“We’re just trying to move the ball and get the right shot because everyone is a threat out there,” acknowledged Chantelle Handy who tucked herself away willingly in the corner and converted 2/7. “That’s why we’re difficult to guard.”

Temi Fagbenle was harangued by double-teams but still collected 13 points and ten rebounds. And her presence opened gaps elsewhere. Only latterly in the opening half did the Latvians encroach with some pressure of their own, ending it with a 7-0 burst that reduced their deficit to 41-39.

“We spoke at half-time about tightening up our defence,” Leedham admitted. “We knew if we could tighten up our defence, we could really make a push.”

It did not arrive immediately. Latvia kept charging and kept pushing. Much pressure is on their shoulders. “It’s hard to play at home,” Buceta noted. An 8-2 run drew them level at 47-47 but the retort was decisive and brutal.

Leedham – who added seven steals and six assists – and Samuelson, who scored 14, pulled triggers once more, Georgia Jones did likewise and a 18-2 burst that saw their rivals held scoreless for over five minutes propelled GB 65-49 in front heading into the fourth.

And as hard as the drummers banged, the home favourites could not pump up their volume as the British perimeter enforcers denied comfortable looks, restricting Latvia to a mere 4/19 from beyond the arc.

Even though GB went 5:10 without a basket, they conceded just seven in reply. Able to rest easy after leading by as much as 73-53. The ideal opener, a step close to the de facto Last 16, at least.

But this, just the start, they hope.

“With the players we have now, the main core of us have played together for about ten years now,” Handy added. “That’s the experience we bring,. The young players have come in and adapted to our culture.

“You can’t say it’s the best line-up in British history but we are. bringing in a lot of experience. And the young ones we’re bringing in are doing what they need to do for us to get to the next level.”

Elina Dikaioulaku led Latvia with 17 points.


UpdatesGame Stats

Game Notes

Great Britain captain Stef Collins wins her 150th cap. GB starters: Vanderwal, Samuelson, Leedham, Handy Fagbenle,


Group A: Latvia 60-74 Great Britain, Spain Ukraine

Group B: France 74 Czech Rep. 61, Sweden 67 Montenegro 51


Photo: Mansoor Ahmed


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