Tonight in Skopje, the once unknowns of world basketball, Great Britain could qualify for their second straight EuroBasket, if they beat FYR of Macedonia. For the GB side – this is by far, the biggest test.
Since gaining promotion from Division B in 2005, the Macedonians have not lost at home, winning all ten games – and in this qualifying campaign, they have conceded less than 60 points a game, winning all games by double-digits. Standard Life Great Britain coach, Chris Finch knows of the challenge – and singles out American-born, Bo McCallebb as their main threat.
“McCalleb has played well for them. He can really score so we will need to step up our defensive effort.” stressed Finch.
McCallebb led all scorers with 30 points last time these two sides met – and is currently the leading scorer in EuroBasket Qualifying, averaging 25 points a game. Despite scoring 30 points for the Macedonians, they came up on the losing side, Great Britain beat them 104-97 in an overtime thriller in Newcastle at the start of August.
Finch is looking forward to the challenge, and says his players are as well: “Macedonia is an excellent team and playing in front of their home crowd provides us with a great challenge.
“The guys are ready to play again after having the last bye. The extra days of preparation always help but at this point we are ready to get to game time and compete.”
While the men are playing in Skopje, the women have the chance to make it three straight wins in their group, as they travel to Kosice to play the Slovak Republic.
The Slovaks will be tough competition though, as they comfortably beat Tom Maher’s side, 76-67 in Birmingham over a week ago.
“We are of course firstly looking for a win, which we understand will be extremely tough” said assistant coach, Damien Jennings.
“We are also looking for a performance improvement as we know there are several areas of our game where we are simply not maximising our potential, and this was evidently apparent against the Ukraine.”
The Brits, Slovak Republic and Germany all top EuroBasket Women Qualifying Group D with 2-1 records, so a win for either side, would shake the tight group up.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net