LIVERPOOL (Olympics) – Britain’s men and women took giant steps in the direction of the London Games in 2012 on Thursday night with two of the most important wins in the country’s basketball history.
For the very first time, Great Britain punched their ticket for the EuroBasket Women with next year’s event to be staged in Poland.
Led by Australian coach Tom Maher, the Brits won for the fourth time in five games on Thursday, hammering Germany 77-59, to seal first place in their Division A qualifying group ahead of Slovakia, Germany and Ukraine.
The women’s success seems to have caught everyone on the continent by surprise – at least the Slovakians, Ukraine and Germany.
Britain received special dispensation to play in Division A after being relegated following their Division A campaign last time out.
British basketball handed the reins to Maher, who has coached Australia, New Zealand and China at Olympic Games, and he has done wonders.
After a 76-67 home defeat to Slovakia to open their qualification campaign, Britain have won four straight and by big margins.
They won 72-63 in Germany, 57-49 at home over Ukraine, 70-63 at Slovakia and the 18-point mauling of Germany in the United Kingdom.
Thursday's triumph was due in large part to the performance of Julie Page, who dominated in the low post with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Maher had a lot to say after Thursday’s demolition of Germany.
“We ran over Germany tonight,” Maher said, “and Julie gave us a great start with her rebounding.
“It's a matter of being there all of the time and competing all the time - it was a magnificent effort."
When asked about Britain playing at the Olympics, with FIBA having told both the men’s and women’s teams they need to convince the sport’s world governing body of their competitiveness before being allowed to take up spots normally reserved for host nations, Finch replied: "We've met every performance marker they've laid down.
"We believe we're entitled to our rightful spot by the way we play."
– but the sailors praise the new boats