By Rosie Foley
Greece and Great Britain’s women’s teams were joint at the top of their pool with seven points. They needed a three-point win to secure their place. The top team in the eight qualifying pools automatically get a place in the finals, with the best six second-placed teams qualifying too.
The Belle Vue venue, has seen GB fight to comeback and win against Montenegro and Israel in past years, a sign that is it becoming GB’s fortress. In a tantalising qualification game, GB managed to beat Greece, 79-77. With top scorer being Johannah Leedham with 21 points, closely followed by Georgia Jones with 16, and Chantelle Handy and Karlie Samuelson with 14.
The first quarter went by with GB igniting an 8-0 lead. This lead continued into the second quarter with GB edging Greece by 14 points, 31-17. However, Greece brought it back after half time and kept the pressure on GB, diminishing GB’s lead to only three points, 61-58. The final quarter was very tense, with both teams being level on 71-71, and only 2:42 left to play. Jones and Samuelson managed to both hit threes creating a lead of 3 points, 77-74. A steal from Leedham gave GB a further 5-point lead, but Leedham then fouled Greek captain Evanthia Maltsi, who scored all three of her free throws. However, that was nothing to worry about for GB as they managed to beat Greece 79-77.
With GB women’s Basketball reaching the EuroBasket finals, Holly Merchant, President of Cardiff University Ladies Basketball Club, hopes that it will show how far the sport has come but she believes there is more to come.
‘Basketball is a worldwide sport and yet there is so much room for growth concerning women’s basketball in the UK’.
Holly is happy that having GB women’s basketball excelling in the EuroBaskets will encourage and inspire others to join the sport.
‘It’s amazing to see so many amazing British female players on the European stage which younger and less experienced players can look up to’.
This growth in the female sector of basketball is evident in CULBC. This year they have a large first team squad and very keen second team. Which is something Holly never thought she’d see.
‘It’s worlds away from my first year’.
‘We were struggling to get more than six people to a game’.
‘It’s a really positive sign of how the sport is continuing to grow year after year’.
CULBC have had a fluctuating season this year, but they are aiming to finish in the top three in their league table. They hope to build on last years cup success, where they reached the quarter finals last years and are hoping to follow in team GB’s footsteps and qualify that one step further.