Great Britain face Montenegro tonight (7pm UK) for a spot in the last eight of EuroBasket.

“This is the first target,” Chema Buceta declared after Sunday’s victory over Ukraine cemented a spot in the knockout stages.

Overall mission, far from accomplished, however.

2-1 in the opening round, within a few bounces from stunning Spain, his side have surprised many.

But not themselves.

And not only will they back themselves to beat the Montenegrins in Riga and earn themselves a spot on Tuesday’s charter flight to Belgrade, there is one huge reason to feel a sense of cautious optimism beyond.

Hungary await the victors on Thursday. Much less experienced than GB. Less battle-tested. And with no more talent. Having departed so many championships over the past decade with regrets over what-might-have-beens, there is a clear path to the semi-finals – and a guaranteed spot to next summer’s Olympic qualification tournament.

For this side, for the sport, what a prospect that is.

“We’ve talked about it before almost every game, how we could inspire young girls by doing well here,” Jo Leedham proclaims.

“You want British basketball to be respected. You want people to play the sport, to be involved. You see how it is in other countries, with the strides forward they’ve made. If we do well, you hope that’ll have little kids wanting to play basketball over something else.”

Montenegro should cause them no fear. They had to beat a weak Czech Republic in their final pool game simply to avoid elimination in the very first stage.

They are the second-lowest scoring team in the competition with just 58.0 points per game, only above the departed Turkey, with 15.8 of that on average from WNBA big Glory Johnson.

GB have notched 67 offensively. Of greater import, they have conceded just 60.3 per.

To borrow a mantra from a deposed NBA champion, they have Strength in Numbers with Buceta empowered to go to his bench without a moment’s concern.

“In a tournament like this when you’re playing a lot of games, and they’re back to back, it helps that you can just rotate players,” Georgia Jones affirms. “And everyone is ok with that.

“Everyone is buying into that philosophy as well which is great. You come in, you do your job. You get out, It’s working and we’re grateful.”

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Now to get out once more. To Serbia, to achieve what would be the highest-ever placing for GB team and all the potential that still would remain.

We can’t take Montenegro lightly, GB’s head coach cautions.

“We have to be more concentrated about the perimeter players outside. Their three-point shot. Then Johnson inside. They have inside players and shooters. We have to be aware of that.

“We have to play our defence. And in offense, they will be very tough so we have to play with discipline.”

Now or never. This is the best GB team since 2006, the best-equipped to rise to this challenge and swat it away.

Monday could be a night to surpass all that has gone before – but still target extras.

“We are top 12 now,” Buceta adds. “All games are going to be difficult. But we are playing one game now to be top eight. That is something fantastic.”

Elsewhere, Latvia play Sweden for the other quarter-final place with the winner meeting Serbia.

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

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