Great Britain caught in a Dream world

Atlanta Dream’s short stay in Manchester came to a close, as they defeated Great Britain 82-51 at the MEN Arena.

Atlanta’s Coco Miller led all scorers for the dream with 21 points and five rebounds, ably supported by Lindsay Harding, who began life with the Dream hitting 11 points. Kim Butler led the Great Britain charge with 12.

“It was a very good game,” Miller said afterwards. “It was physical, and Great Britain are very scrappy and intense.

“We wanted to play our style of basketball. Up-tempo and Lindsay (Harding) did a great job pushing the ball up the floor and finding open people and hitting easy shots,” said the veteran Miller, who is now entering her tenth year in the WNBA.

It was Butler who opened the scoring for the Brits, who in under three weeks travel to Poland to compete in their first Eurobasket women. Unfortunately, it was the only time they led the Eastern Conference champions.

The scoreboard experienced some technical difficulties after Butler’s two-pointer, where the scoreline read 998-2 in Great Britain’s favour. Tom Maher’s side wished for some score along those lines but it was never to be.

Atlanta asserted their dominance, and went on a 15-4 tear, led by Miller – who scored seven of those points – putting the Dream in firm control and effectively ending the game as a contest.

Great Britain managed to get into double figures near the end of the first. But by then, Atlanta had already established a double-digit lead. Harding hit a deep two on the buzzer to give the Dream a 26-12 first quarter lead.

As the second quarter dragged, both teams slipped into a scoring coma, as neither side connected frequently in the second period. Great Britain held Atlanta scoreless for the opening three minutes before Shalee Lehning hit for two.

Unfortunately during that cold-patch, the Brits were unable to capitalize on the Dream’s scoring drought. Azania Stewart with back-to-back buckets during the spell.

Atlanta re-grouped slowly – building their lead as the second quarter ended. Sandora Irvin scoring to give Atlanta a 39-19 lead at the half.

It was a 6-0 run to start the third that virtually ended all hope of a comeback for Great Britain, as the Dream built up a 51-28 lead mid-way through the third. Stef Collins ended the run with a triple.

Julie Page hit six points after Collins’ triple, but the prolific duo of Miller and Harding countered for the Dream to give them a 63-34 lead heading to the final period.

Like the start of the third though. Atlanta took advantage of a tired Great Britain side, hitting eight straight points, extending the lead to 73-42.

Cheered on by nearly 2,700 fans inside the MEN, the same venue that will stage the monumental USA v. Great Britain internationals next year before the 2012 Olympics, Great Britain fought bravely to the end, but it was all in vain.

“We played pretty much Atlanta Dream basketball,” Dream coach Marynell Meadors said. “We played without some of our starters, which (who) have been a little bit injured since before we got here.

“That being said, the way that our bench has performed, they performed this way last year and helped us to get all the way to the championship series and it was hustle and defence and just getting interceptions. I thought our ability to take the ball down and run and do the things that we do and we like to push the action.” Meadors explained.

Great Britain head to Latvia next on their final stop before Eurobasket in Poland. Tom Maher accepted defeat and was happy that his side got the chance to play a team like the Atlanta Dream.

“I was very happy to have the opportunity to play a WNBA team,” Maher commented. “It’s a great experience to have girls who have never played against athletes like that before, so it was a great experience for them and I think it will stand us in stead for the immediate future at the European Championships.”