Great Britain’s women lost 63-50 to Canada at Meadowbank on Sunday in their seventh pre-Olympic warm-up.
There is much for coach Tom Maher to ponder now, even if he had plenty of positives to take. In a topsy-turvy game, he saw both the best and worst from his squad. They are, he declared, still far from the finished article.
“We spent a lot of time defensively at our training camp so you’ll be a little bit behind offensively and that showed,” he said. “But until you practice these things enough, you have to expect that and it showed.”
Especially at the outset, some weaknesses were exposed and exploited.
The hosts suffered an early bombardment as the feelgood factor of Saturday’s 70-57 victory disappeared as the Canadians hit back with a vengeance.
Up 6-0 before Nat Stafford opened GB’s account with 7:01 left in the first quarter, the visitors went on a 18-4 run to close the period, Courtnay Pilypaitis pushing their advantage to as much as 28-6 early in the second.
“It was disappointing to come out like that,” said Jo Leedham. “That’s not what we’re about.
“We’ve showed glimpses of how we need to be and the style we need to play. But not to do it consistently really hurts.”
Defensively, his side were failing to execute. Seven turnovers were punished. But the revival act speedily began. Stef Collins hit a three-pointer to key a 15-3 flurry that eventually closed the deficit to 32-24 at half-time.
Canada, with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament now coming rapidly into view, have a nice mix of size and speed. Under pressure, there appear obvious cracks.
Britain turned up the heat still further as their transition game was cranked up and Stafford’s jumper brought her side within reach when the gap was sliced to 35-31 with 5:13 left in the third.
Maher knows his team need these kinds of tests as he determines his final two cuts this week.
Steph Gandy, who did not play due to injury, seems a certainty to miss out. One more must go. The likes of Jeneya Wade-Frey and Lauren Thomas-Johnson were duly given opportunities to shine but will now wait and pray.
Results matter more however in the grand scheme. Trailing 45-39 as the fourth began, Maher ordered a press but both teams ground to an offensive halt with just one Canadian field goal in a barren four-minute spell.
Leedham took the reins and converted off a steal as GB came within six. Pilypaitis, almost immediately, hit a three, repeating the feat moments later as Maher called a time-out with his team trailing 55-43 with 4:27 to go.
However, his team could make no inroads, as the visitors split the series 1-1.
“They were really physical,” said Leedham, who matched Stafford for a game-high 14 points.
“They gave us a taste of our own medicine after yesterday. We kind of sat there and took it and didn’t swing many punches back. At the end of the second quarter we put them under pressure and that enabled us to cut the lead. But we made too many mistakes.”
GB now head for Turkey next weekend for a four-nation tournament against the hosts, Argentina and Korea. By then, however, two players will have headed home with their Olympic ambitions at an end.
Canada already have their dozen set. Pilypaitis, returning after injury, scored a team-best 13 points but head coach Allison McNeill must limit her minutes still, along with Kim Smith and Lizanne Murphy.
With just two weeks until the qualifiers for London 2012, she will seek fine tuning.
“We want little more consistency, the same as Tom and all of us are looking for,” McNeill said. “I also think we play a lot of people and sometimes that will come and go so we find a role for everybody. We’ve only had one practice this summer with out full squad. So I’m hoping we can peak at the right time.”
The Canadians now head to France next weekend where the hosts, Croatia, and the Czech Republic await.
“They’re three very good teams,” stated McNeill. “So we’ll look for more consistency and try to execute better than we did against GB.”
GB starters: Collins, Stafford, Leedham, Allen, Page. Canada: Smith, Gabriele, Tatham, Ayim, Phillips
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