Great Britain ended their seven game losing run with an 83-68 victory over Potugal in the first of their two game series in Sheffield.
NBA star Luol Deng was the team’s top scorer with 21 points and was honoured at the end of game by being named Player of the Year.
Deng’s numbers were valiantly supported by Pops Mensah-Bonsu’s double double record of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Chris Finch’s side won the game in a brilliant second half of basketball despite a slow start , out-playing their opponents and gaining a double digit advantage which they never let go off.
Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan said : “ we got off to a really slow start but we went into the locker room and talked amongst ourselves. We told ourselves we have twenty minutes to put this right and that’s what we did and we had a great game.
“We showed that we can fight back and win a game from being down. We can show what we can do when we are in sync and playing hard together so today was a big improvement.”
Portugal got on the front foot in the first quarter as a three pointer each for Joao Santos, Joao Gomez and Mario Fernandes gave the visitors an 11-5 head start.
Deng worked tirelessly to get his team back in front. He swished a triple and then stole the ball and launched it to Mike Lenzly who brought GB within one. In the final moments of the opening period Deng rattled in a lay-up before Jorge Coelho hit a buzzer beating shot to leave GB slightly ahead at 18-17.
Dan Clark helped GB explode into the second quarter. He leaped and slammed home Andrew Lawrence’s miss on a punishing put back sunk. He then found Lawrence open on the perimeter and he sunk a triple for a 23-18 lead. With the break drawing closer, Portugal’s Tomas Barroso added two scores in a 6-0 burst to regain the lead. Lawrence and Clark teamed up again as Clark nailed an 18 foot shot on the buzzer but Portugal left the court two points ahead at 39-37.
Great Britain came out firing in the second half with a 10 point unanswered scoring surge for a 47-41 lead. soon after, a Santos three pointer brought the deficit back to four points for Portugal. Kyle Johnson came off the bench late in the third and made an immediate impact. He scored two back to back triples to end the quarter with GB in front, 62-45.
The home side accelerated once more at the start of the final stanza. Deng added two quick scores including a long range three. Nate Reinking then drove the ball to the hole for a 71-56 advantage. Finch’s men closed the game out strongly with Deng sinking another triple before Eric Boateng forcefully finished Sullivan’s alley-oop pass. Lawrence closed out the victory from the line.
Dan Clark was delighted with the win. He said: “it was good to finally get a win this summer, we were rusty in the first half but we were able to go out there and create a lead that got us the win. If we play hard like we did today we will be alright this summer.”
Great Britain’s women’s team did not share the same success against an overpowering Australian side where they suffered a heavy 87-63 loss.
Jo Leedham played with a lot of determination and heart as she led the team with 12 points.
She said: “ I think we competed well for the most part, we fought very hard. We stuck with them for a half but then we just stopped doing our stuff and following what we were told to do. They are a really good team and their size really hurt us but we have just got to keep our composure and execute our plays.”