England concluded the group phase of the U18 Women's European Championships Division B with a 67-41 win over Macedonia. The victory moved England to 1-3 for the tournament and into 4th place in the group. They now progress to compete for 9th to 16th place and will begin that challenge against Bulgaria tomorrow (Friday, 29th) at 15:30 GMT. If England win that game, they can still finish as high as 9th. A loss would see them competing for 13th.
England's hopes for toppling Bulgaria will be placed on the shoulders of a number of players who had great performances yesterday in that final group game. Abi Lowe led all scorers with 14 points and the Barking Abbey prospect is now averaging 8.2ppg in these championships. Another player hoping to push England forward is Chloe Gaynor, who enjoyed a well rounded performance herself with 10 points, 17 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists and a block. The former Mansfield Giants product is currently in possession of a +17 efficiency rating per game, the team's top performer in that category.
(Coach Ellis made multiple adjustments at the half to swing the game England's way)
A matchup between two sides that were 0-3 entering play, England must have fancied their chances to get off the mark but endured a slow start to proceeding as Macedonia looked to unsettle their opponents. The tactic worked as England shot just 1/14 in that opening quarter, fortunate to get the foul line a number of times to keep them in contention as the 1st ended 10-13. The team have generally performed much better in the 2nd quarter of these Championships to date and this game was fortunately no exception. England added the first 7 points of period to move into the lead, helped in part by a 3 from Anna Popovic, who finished the contest with 12 points. It was a preview of what was to come in the 2nd half as the 1st quarter resistance from Macedonia melted away, allowing England to head into the break up 28-23.
Despite their first half lead, the performance simply wasn't up the standards expected from Coach Ellis, and she was quick to let the side know, "The team were reminded in no uncertain terms of the task they were selected to do. The 2nd half saw a significant improvement in defensive effort, which set us up to secure our first tournament win."
With Coach Ellis' advice still clear in the mind, England started the 3rd quarter with the intention of putting the game out of sight for Macedonia. That task was achieved for the most part during a dominant 6 and a half minute spell which saw England outscore their opponents 22-5. Barking Abbey's Imani Whittington, Abi Lowe and Chloe Gaynor put 12 of those points on the board, with a further 6 from Popovic and 4 from Jo Lowry. A 3 pointer from Lowe ended a miserable quarter for Macedonia and the contest was pretty much over with a 53-32 score line after 3. The 4th was a similar affair but England eased up, taking the period 14-9 for a final score of 67-41.
Later in the day England's opponents for Friday were confirmed as Bulgaria lost to Germany in Group D, finalising standings and the schedule for the next round. You can follow that game on Live Stats by clicking here. Tip is at 15:30GMT. Win or lose against Bulgaria, England will play 2 more games after that on Saturday and Sunday to round out their tournament and provide them with a final position.