Great Britain will be going to EuroBasket 2022 after fending off Germany 83-81.

It took a mighty fourth quarter performance in Podgorica for GB who led by as much as 12 following a ferocious start but then found themselves having to franctically overhaul the co-hosts of the finals in a gripping and tense fourth period.

As the scales at the Bemax Arena tipped one way, then the next, no contribution was ultimately more vital than Luke Nelson’s, the guard slashing to the basket to float in the decisive score in the very last second to leave his team in raptures.

With France beating Montenegro afterward, the value was immeasurable.

“At the end of the game, it looked like I won the game but that was a team win from the start of first quarter to the end,” said Nelson. “Especially the defence we played. The German team is very talented. They’ve a lot of guys who can shoot, and drive and create.

“It was an up and down game. A game of runs. We weathered the storm, especially in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, we played some great team defence with some steals and solid rebounding. I hit a good shot and I’m happy about that but the win belongs to the team.”

“It was very nerve wracking at the end to be tied up,” said Myles Hesson. “We stayed confident and Luke Nelson, he brought us through with a great play to win at the end.”

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GB went small and aimed big at the outset and the three-guard line-up of Teddy Okereafor, Ben Mockford and Nelson sped into action against a below full-strength German line-up.

Threes rained in from the perimeter. And then the interior totem of Gabe Olaseni increased the advantage to 25-13 with 2:31 left in the opening quarter.

It was to be as emphatic as it got but Marc Steutel’s men ably continued their quickfire assault, even when their foes hit seven unanswered points in the second to close the deficit to 35-34.

Olaseni spurred a further spurt. And then the Turkish-based centre, who scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, broke a tie to give his side a 47-45 lead at the break.

The Germans had some momentum. GB’s shooting went astray, ending with 5-19 from beyond the arc.

A 19-8 run saw them cede the advantage for the first time and Andreas Seiferth’s jump stretched their cushion to 73-66 early in the fourth.

Steutel, seeking inspiration, shuffled line-ups in the search for some disruption. Ovie Soko ignited a priceless 8-2 burst that was capped by a three-pointer from the industrious Nelson.

It became a nerve-jangling game of catch-and-mouse with GB laying traps and Germany attempting to skip ahead.

Christian Sengfelder’s three pushed his side 79-75 in front. Olaseni responded. Although Nelson, on a breakaway, saw the ball maddeningly fall beyond his grasp, Soko converted off a steal tie to level with exactly one minute left.

Edge of seat stuff.

Squeaky bum time. The British defence came up big. Huge, in fact.

Olaseni, so often in recent years, has lapped up such moments.

In traffic, with two defenders in his way, he wiggled his way around to bank in a lay up that provided a precious lead with 13 seconds left. He would end with eight rebounds and with 9-14 shooting.

Still ample time for a riposte though.

Maik Zirbes, Germany’s outstanding performer with a team-high 14 points, converted off a miss from veteran Robin Benzing with 4.1 secs left.

Off a time out, Steutel drew up the most perfect of plays.

“We had a couple of options based on what Germany are going to do to do but we had spoken about Luke going off the ball screen with Ovie,” he revealed. “And we did a good job of making some reads there. We had some different options.”

To fell to Nelson to be his ice man, however, driving to the basket with his left-hand and floating it in to take his personal tally to 17 points.

“In the moment, I’m not really thinking about it too much,” he affirmed afterward. “I’m trying to read what’s in front of me. I know my strengths as a player.

“I felt that going left, they were going to try and take away my pull-up jump shot. They were on four team fouls at the time so if I attacked, I felt they were either going to let me go or I’d draw the foul.

“They gave me a bit of an angle. It’s a shot I work on a lot. It’s a shot I’m comfortable with and it went in.”

To secure a famous win. “I’m proud,” the interim head coach acknowledged. “It’s a big win for British basketball/”

It was the kind of result that could be transformative.

“We came out trying to execute the game plan,” said Olaseni. “The coaches gave us a really good set of things to do.

“We just tried to come out and do it to the best of our ability. This is a tough Germany team, regardless of who they put on the court.

“A lot of their guys stepped up and they really matched us in every category. I’m just glad we got the win in the end.”


Game Stats

Notes: GB starters v Germany: Nelson, Mockford, Okereafor, Hesson, Olaseni.

Saturday results: EuroBasket qualifiers, Group G (Podgorica). Germany 81-83 Great Britain, Montenegro 71-73 France (6.45).

Current standings: 1. France (4-1 – Q), 2. Great Britain (3-2 – Q), 3. Montenegro (2-3), 4. Germany (1–4*) (*pre-qualified as co-hosts).

Photos: FIBA

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