CZECH MATE AS GB FACE DO OR DIE TIE

Great Britain’s women face a win or bust tie against Israel on Monday at the EuroBasket finals in Bydgoszcz after a 60-45 loss to the Czech Republic.

With the Israelis also remaining winless after losing 68-41 to Belarus, the two sides will now battle out for third spot in Group B and the single remaining berth in the second round.

There were thoughts of an improbable upset when Jo Leedham came off the bench to score 7 of her team-high 14 points in the first quarter as GB grabbed a shock 13-7 lead.

However, the Czechs – who lost to the USA in last year’s world championship final – stepped up a gear in the second quarter and with Katerina Elhotova dominating, they surged in front with a 16-3 run.

Although Tom Maher’s side cut the gap to 27-23 at half-time, their powerful rivals proved irresistible in the second half, led by 27 points from the potent Elhotova. Using their massive height advantage, and their greater experience, they steadily imposed themselves.

Tom Maher admitted the Czechs were too strong (Map Photos/BB)

With Britain’s starting guards, Nat Stafford and Stef Collins, unable to make headway from the perimeter, GB tried to push the ball inside but with little reward as they came up against a defensive barricade.

They tried to find ways through. Too hard at times, driving headline into traffic with no place to go. The Czechs looked comfortable, even as Maher threw on a press.

A 10-2 run gave them ample breathing room in the third period and although Rose Anderson hit a three to cap a 7-1 burst which trimmed the deficit to 41-35 with 2:02 until the final break.

But immediately, Elhotova responded from long range and the momentum was thwarted. The guard repeated the feat on the buzzer to open up a 48-35 safety net entering the fourth.

And despite a tireless effort from GB, there was no way back.

“We just played a team that’s too good for us,” said Maher. “You hope for the miracle upset.” It was too much to ask.

Down 57-41 with 2:25 left, Maher gave Kate Butters a late run as she claimed her 50th international cap. There was no disgrace for GB. But now they have one last chance to survive.

“It’s a big game,” Maher admitted. “We’ve Belarus and the Czechs and it’s a miracle if you get a win. It’s a goldmine if you do. But tomorrow is a high pressure game. I’m sure I’ll be nervous. I feel nervous now.”

Earlier, Belarus became the first Group B team to book a place in the second phase of EuroBasket 2011 with a comprehensive, if not completely emphatic victory over Israel in Bydgoszcz. And the world championship semi-finalists will now battle it out with the Czechs for top spot in the pool when they meet on Monday evening.

With Tatsiana Likharovich scoring a team-high 12 points amid a balanced offensive effort, Anatoli Buyalski’s side finally showed their best in the fourth period after Israeli had held them in check early on.

Day 2 Results

Group B: Great Britain 45 Czech Republic 60, Belarus 68 Israel 41

Group A: Slovakia 60 Turkey 76, Lithuania 76 Russia 64

Group C: Montenegro 66 Spain 57, Germany 60-75 Poland

Group D: Croatia 65 Greece 63, Latvia 59 France 56 OT

 

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