GB progress to the second phase with a win over Israel

By Jessica CreightonOlympic sports reporter

GB women made history by reaching the second stage of the Eurobasket finals with a 74-51 victory over Israel.

Following losses to Belarus and Czech Republic, only a win would have seen GB progress on their Eurobasket debut.

Head coach Tom Maher told BBC Sport: "Spirits are very high. We've been able to compete really well. We were the better team."

Johannah Leedham was GB's leading scorer with 18, while Natalie Stafford contributed 16 points in Poland.

Maher's team began the tournament as rank outsiders but a fiery performance, with five players hitting double figures, sealed their progress to the knockout stages.

However, it was a tentative start from GB, who perhaps realised the test before them.

Leedham's introduction halfway through the opening quarter injected energy into the British line-up.

With 1:34 minutes on the clock, she sunk three points to help her team to a 13-11 lead at the end of the first.

Britain were first to the basket in the second period and continued on a commanding 12-point run that saw them stretch their lead to 35-17 with 2:23 minutes left to play.

Authoritative performances from Kim Butler and Julie Page, scoring 14 and 11 points respectively, kept the Israeli defence on their toes throughout.

Another lively showing from Leedham, not yet 100% fit following a knee injury, saw her sink three baskets from the arc as GB refused to relinquish their lead after gaining the advantage in the first.

An Israeli time out with six minutes left did them few favours and they only managed 14 points in the final stanza compared to Britain's 20.

A win in this game bodes well for the team's appearance at the 2012 Olympics, after they were granted a host nation place by governing body Fiba.

Maher, who led the Australian team to an Olympic silver in 2000, told BBC Sport: "We're no token home team that's going to play at a home Olympics and be embarrassed.

"We're a legitimate team so we can compete. It's a really good sign [and] a testament to what a hard-working team can do."

GB's next game will be on Thursday 23 June against Lithuania. The match can be watched live from 1430 BST on BBC Red Button and the BBC Sport website.

GB's second match of the next round will be against Turkey on Saturday 25 June and their third game of the second will be an encounter with Russia on Monday 27 June.