Iceland end GB’s EuroBasket qualifying campaign

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP
Photo: Mansoor Ahmed/MAP
Iceland has ended Great Britain’s hopes of qualification for Eurobasket 2015 by beating them in London 71-69 on Wednesday night.

GB are now 0-3 in qualification and have no chance of qualifying for Eurobasket 2015 or the Rio Olympics, which leaves the future of the national team programme in jeopardy. Iceland moves to 2-1 and leave themselves in a good position to qualify for a first ever Eurobasket tournament. They play Bosnia in the capital Reykjavik on Wednesday.

Jon Steffansson led all scorers for Iceland with 23 points including a dagger three-pointer with 44.5 seconds remaining to give Iceland a 71-67 cushion, which GB couldn’t recover from.

“I’m just proud of the team, especially in the second half,” Steffansson said afterwards. “We were a little flat in the first, but for me in the second half our defence and our offence, we started to play better.

“We showed that spark, that intensity and that is the Iceland team.”

Hordur Vilhjalmsson amassed 17 points to support Steffansson; the only two players to reach double-figures for the victors.

“The most important thing for us is that at half-time we had to keep fighting,” Iceland coach Craig Pedersen said.

“And then there was a segment where we rebounded the ball on defence very well, and [we] got a little bit of a flow going on offence, and that got us back in the game.”

Kieron Achara led GB with 15 points. Dan Clark added 14, but went scoreless from the early stages of the second quarter to the latter moments of the fourth.

“We played a great first half but at the start of the third quarter we gave up a few too many offensive rebounds,” GB’s coach Joe Prunty said.

“We also rushed a few shots and made too many turnovers and that made it a little difficult for us.”

The Brits got off to a strong start by taking the ball aggressively to the basket. Drew Sullivan and Dan Clark scored the first points of the game before Iceland got into the groove thanks to a three from Vilhjalmsson, which narrowed GB’s lead to 6-5 in the early going.

The hosts were behind very briefly mid-way through the first but some excellent team basketball, followed by clinical transition play, highlighted by a flashy behind-the-back pass from Devon van Oostrum leading to a lay-up from Kyle Johnson handed Britain a 22-18 lead after the first ten minutes.

From there, GB attacked the points spread from the previous meeting and a dunk from Myles Hesson evened the spread at 37-24. Iceland, thanks to Martin Hermannsson and Vilhjalmsson got them back into it. The hosts led 38-28 at the half.

Hesson hit two three-pointers to start the third period but Iceland responded with a 13-2 run to shrink GB’s to 46-44, forcing GB coach Prunty to call a timeout.

GB maintained the lead until the final seconds of the third, when a three from Helgi Magnusson gave the visitors a 56-54 lead heading to the fourth.

GB were already in desperation mode. Ben Mockford, a player that came from the GB Futures squad was brought in to try and lift the Brits like he did at the start of the fourth against Bosnia. He scored a tough lay-up to bring the hosts to within three points but he came off shortly afterward.

Iceland though stood firm and sealed the game from the foul line. They endured one last throw of the dice but Clark’s heave was no good.

Notes: Great Britain failed to qualify for a Eurobasket for the first time since 2009 … Jon Steffansson made his first appearance for Iceland in the qualifying round … At the post-game press conference, a question was asked to GB’s Drew Sullivan about the future of the GB programme, which was interrupted by GB’s press officer who said: “Just thought I would make it clear; we will not go away. British Basketball is here to stay.”