Great Britain pulled out all the stops to put together a complete 4th quarter, breaking open a close game to beat Luxembourg 71-54. GB took the final frame 23-2 after some aggressive play to attack the basket on offence while forcing Luxembourg into fierce looks and turnovers in reply.
Luxembourg eventually shot 1/14 in the 4th quarter as Nate Reinking’s side turned the screw to run out comfortable winners.
“In the 1st half we lacked a little bit of energy, and we just didn’t finish the shots that we could have, especially around the rim,” said GB Head Coach Nate Reinking, reflecting on the win.
“In the 2nd half, we woke up a little, especially defensively with the pressure. I think that turned them over a little bit which led to some easy buckets and we just got that momentum going for us from there.”
Captain Myles Hesson top-scored for GB with a game-high 22 points, and he started the game well to contribute eight of GB’s 22 1st quarter points. With the hosts showing their intent on the glass, Luxembourg looked outmatched. Winning the rebound battle 15-7, including a 7-0 advantage on the offensive boards, set the tone early for the home side as they led 22-15 after 1.
Luxembourg would regroup, fashioning a 2-8 run that sent GB into an early time out to start the 2nd quarter. With the familiarity of a unit that has been playing together for a considerable amount of time, the visitors grew into the game, and their confidence began to show.
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Hesson was the man to stem the flow, moving into double digits as GB scrapped to stay in front. Eventually, they’d do just that, but only just, leading 32-31 at the half.
Despite the team’s struggles from range during Wednesday’s win over Kosovo, GB continued to aim deep in Manchester. Going 2/15 in the first half provided a natural result, but just as they did in Mitrovica, GB eventually found some success in the 3rd.
Following a 3-10 start to the frame that once again sent GB to an early time out, Conner Washington and then Ashley Hamilton both connected from beyond the arc to keep GB in touch.
Teddy Okereafor joined the party as he scored eight points in the 3rd, but Luxembourg was persistent. Six of Luxembourg’s captain Alex Laurent’s final 14 points came in the 3rd as GB trailed 48-52 going into the final quarter.
From there, the game turned on its head. Opened by a massive dunk by Hesson, GB upped their game as the visitors went 0/7 from the floor. By the time they did find the net, Reinking’s men had energised the local crowd with a 9-0 run to push themselves out to a modest lead, and from there GB ran away with the contest.
“We didn’t put our heads down the whole game, we stuck together through thick and thin, and it shows what type of players we’ve got on the team,” said Hesson, who finished with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals to go with his 22 points. “It was really close, but we depend on each other and people came up with big steals towards the end, and we were able to grind it out.”
Luxembourg Head Coach Ken Diederich: “I think everything went wrong [in the 4thquarter]. I think that we were pretty much level going into the 4th and we had our game plan in place. Down 3, down five, maybe. Then we turned the ball over. We had 22 turnovers, and I believe we had at least 8 in the 4th quarter. GB finally found their rhythm, they played fast, hit shots and we fell apart, and that’s tough as I thought we deserved better.”
GB’s Top Performers: Myles Hesson – 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists, 2 steals: Gabe Olaseni – 12 points, 13 rebounds: Teddy Okereafor – 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals: Mo Soluade – 9 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals.
GB now enjoy a week of practice ahead of their next fixture when Kosovo will head to Manchester’s National Basketball Performance Centre for GB’s 3rd game of Group G. That contest will tip at 7:00 pm and tickets will be available to purchase from the venue.