Great Britain eased to victory over Portugal to secure their spot at FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2019, topping Group D with a 5-1 qualification record.
Knowing only a victory would be enough to send them through, the hosts carried over the momentum from last weekend’s dramatic win over Greece to make a fast start – outscoring the visitors 20-9 in the opening quarter. Much to the delight of the crowd at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester.
A low-scoring, back and forth second period saw Great Britain maintain their advantage and head into half-time with a comfortable 33-19 lead – Johannah Leedham and Rachael Vanderwal each having netted seven points.
As if to remind the visitors of their dominance, a swift 9-2 run by the home team to begin the second half all but killed any notion of a dramatic comeback by Portugal.
From that point on it was a case of game maintenance by Great Britain, led by the team’s starting unit: Leedham, Vanderwal, Temi Fagbenle, Karlie Samuelson and the retiring Azania Stewart.
Stewart – who collected her 101st and final cap – had the fans on their feet on multiple occasions as the veteran ran through her offensive repertoire for the last time on the international stage.
Leading 53-27 at the end of the third, Great Britain eventually ran out comfortable 83-42 winners – capping an incredible qualification campaign and one of the most impressive few days in recent history for the women’s team.
Vanderwal led all scorers with 21 points – including shooting a perfect 5/5 from deep – for Great Britain, while Fagbenle added 17 points, Stewart signed off with 10 points and Leedham netted a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds.