September 10 - Britain coach Chris Finch (pictured) believes his team have shown they are on the verge of being able to compete at the highest level of the game.

But he admits there is much work to do to go the extra step.

Britain were knocked out of the European Championships at the first hurdle last night as a 77-59 defeat to Serbia made for three losses in as many days.

But while they depart Poland without a victory, they have won a number of admirers with the way they battled, not least in taking world champions Spain to the brink in an 84-76 loss last night.

Finch said: "The biggest thing we learned is that we're close.

"But it's going to take a lot to get to where we need to be.

"We really need to up the level of expectations around the programme.

"I always compare it to trying to become a real good golfer.

"As you get closer to being a scratch golfer, it gets harder and harder to shave those final shots off.

"There are some little things we need to do a lot better as professionals and as a programme, but I'm sure we'll be able to put a lot of the lessons we learned this week into that."

While being bounced in three games does not look impressive on paper, Britain's mere presence at this tournament was the culmination of a fairytale rise through Europe's basketball ranks that exceeded all expectations.

In the space of a couple of years, Britain have risen from Division B no-hopers to qualify for the first European Championships in their history.

Andrew Sullivan, Britain's captain, reflected on the progress made in summing up Britain's performances here.

He said: "The programme has come a long way in the last four years.

"Then, we would not have been able to compete with any of these teams, but we've developed some talented players and brought some others in with the quality you need to be able to play at this level.

"The guys have played extremely hard but you need to do this on a consistent basis and take care of the small things that have let us down too many times this summer.

"But we have put ourselves in a great place to compete in Europe."

That they did all this without Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng (pictured), absent through injury, and the Detroit Pistons' Ben Gordon, who decommitted after switching teams this summer, gives Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Britain's best-known player in the tournament, hope for the future.

The Houtson Rockets player said: "I think we've given ourselves something to build around and next time, when hopefully we have all these players that we could potentially have, I think we have not only a chance to compete but a chance to contend.

"You don't want to make excuses because we had a chance to win all three games, but it would be different with those guys here.

"The future for British basketball is bright."

Finch must ensure none of Britain's momentum is lost as they look to continue to build towards the goal of playing at the 2012 London Olympics.

Finch said:"We had a lot of issues coming into this tournament."

"Every national team has them, but the difference is that we have a smaller margin of error than most.

"But we've learned a lot and now is a good time for us to draw a line and demand more of our guys, understanding what we need to do better as professionals to take it to the next level."

As soon as the draw was made for this tournament, matching Britain against Spain, Slovenia and Serbia, it became clear that escaping the group stage would be a very tall order.

More realistically, Britain needed to come here and put on a solid showing and prove to the world governing body FIBA they are worthy of playing in London in three years' time.

Finch said: "I hope people saw a team that can compete, a team that maximises what it has.

"We were never going to be pretty, we don't have a whole lot of pretty pieces in our team, but we gave ourselves a chance to win every game and go through to the next round.

"That's all we could ask for.

"Now the next job is to capitalise on those chances."