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Page last updated at 21:47 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 22:47 UK

Serbia defeat ends GB challenge

EUROBASKET 2009, POLAND
Dates: 7-20 September
Coverage: Daily highlights on the BBC Sport website (UK only)

GB's Pops Mensah-Bonsu is challenged by Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica

Highlights - Serbia end GB's Euro challenge

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport at EuroBasket in Poland

Great Britain failed to produce the win they needed to remain in the European Championships, losing their final group game to Serbia 77-59.

Nate Reinking led GB's scoring with 21 points, including four three-pointers, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu added 16.

But Chris Finch's team lacked scoring punch throughout against a well-drilled Serbia team that took the lead in the fourth minute and never lost it.

The result leaves GB with only one win in 12 international games this summer.

After the thrilling comeback they produced against world champions Spain the night before, GB's performance was error-strewn and lacking a cutting edge.

Although Andrew Betts returned from injury, he played only limited minutes and GB also lost Joel Freeland to a recurrence of his back injury.

The guards who had shot the ball so well against Spain once again struggled to find their shots.

Only Reinking connected from three-point range in the first three quarters.

True to their form this summer, GB dug themselves a hole in the first quarter with seven turnovers to trail 19-9 and then clambered back into the game at the start of the second quarter, trailing by two points at one stage.

But Serbia, described as "physical" by GB captain Andrew Sullivan, were quick to regain control and GB's poor offensive production gave them little chance to recover.

"It's tough to get up physically and emotionally to play three games in three days - especially after the game we had against Spain," said Mensah-Bonsu. "Serbia were the better team tonight."

I think the programme's going in the right direction

GB coach Chris Finch

Coach Chris Finch told after-match press conference that GB are "not a million miles away" in terms of being able to compete at the top European level.

"We were missing key personnel that would make a difference, but it's more than that," he said.

"I compare it to becoming a better golfer - as you get closer to scratch it becomes more difficult to shave those last few strokes off your game.

"It's about little things we have do on and off the floor as professionals."

"If you look at teams like Spain, Italy, France, Slovenia and Serbia, they've all played with each other since they were kids as far as the national team is concerned," added Mensah-Bonsu.

"We just got put together about three years ago and every year there's new players and if Luol Deng and Ben Gordon come in next year it's going to be another change.

"Maybe that's why we don't have the same cohesiveness and chemistry as these other teams have."

Finch defended his team's poor record through the summer in both the warm-up tournaments and the EuroBasket.

GB attack (picture by Mansoor Ahmed photography)
GB could not capitalise (picture by Mansoor Ahmed photography)

"The only three games that mattered really are the ones that happened here in Poland," he said. "Those are disappointing.

"We always seem to have issues that we have to overcome but that's not too different from every other national team. But we don't have as much margin for error.

"Now we've learned a lot we can draw a line and be more demanding of our guys, understanding what we have to do now to be better."

Despite the early exit from Poland, Finch said he has no fears for his job in the immediate future.

"Not really - I've signed a new contract and if they're not happy with me then that's their decision, not mine. I think the programme's going in the right direction," he said.

GB's task had been made easier by Spain's 90-84 overtime win over group leaders Slovenia in the opening game of the night, meaning that any kind of win over Serbia would be enough for GB to qualify.

That game broke new ground for the tournament because television review was used for the first time to determine that Slovenia's tying basket from Erazem Lorbek had left his hand before the clock had expired.

That decision, after a wait of several minutes and made by referee Romualdas Brazauskas, was greeted with a huge roar by the 2,000 or so Slovenian fans in the Torwar.

In the end, Slovenia, Spain and Serbia qualified for the second phase in Lodz.

It is still not out of the question that GB's status as Olympic hosts might garner them a wild card entry to next year's World Championships in Turkey.

But their result in Poland is more likely to see them back at the qualifying stage next summer, attempting to gain a place in the 2011 EuroBasket finals in Lithuania.



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see also
Brave GB scare world champs Spain
08 Sep 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer loss in European opener
07 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Finch names GB EuroBasket squad
05 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Pops return strengthens GB hopes
02 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Turkey too strong for weakened GB
29 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB 'embarrassing' in latest loss
28 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB gift last-gasp win to Latvia
26 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Great Britain clinch Slovenia win
21 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Lithuania too strong for GB men
20 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer heavy defeat to Spain
19 Aug 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball


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