4 September 2019
Five from five for Britain at European Championships
World champions Great Britain imposed themselves on the continental stage with five wins from five in the group phase of the IWBF European Championships.
Haj Bhania’s side have laid down a marker with victories over Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and hosts Poland this week in Wałbrzych, progressing top of Group A.
Defeats of the Austrians and Swiss were particularly emphatic, achieved by 56 and 55-point margins respectively, while 2017 bronze medallists Germany were dispatched 75-58.
“The tournament has been great so far,” said captain Phil Pratt, who led from the front with 27 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists against Germany.
“The team is just starting to gel. It has been a weird preparation for us because four of our players have been unwell and we are just fighting through that.
“The game against Germany was our toughest game in the group and we played as well as we have the whole tournament so really good result.”
Power forward Lee Manning, who played a key role as Britain romped to a maiden global gold in Hamburg last summer, has scored heavily, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds.
But it has been a true team effort thus far – World Championships MVP Greg Warburton putting up 16 in the opening game win over Italy and two-time Paralympian Ian Sagar excelling on his major tournament return.
The major threats to Britain regaining the European crown they won in 2011, 2013 and 2015 are Spain, top of Group B with a perfect record, and reigning champions Turkey.
Awaiting Bhania’s men in the quarter-finals are France, who ensured their place in the last eight thanks to a narrow win over Russia.
Victory seals a Paralympic qualification spot but on Pratt’s mind is avoiding a repeat of the heartbreaking defeat to the French in the quarter-finals of their home Worlds in 2010.
“We have history against France in big games,” he said.
“Although I wasn’t in that team, watching how devastated the guys were, we don’t want that to happen to us so we are not taking it lightly whatsoever.
“We are going to go in with the same preparation as every game, such as video and learn how to play against them.”
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