Great Britain’s women suffer a heartbreaking 80-77 overtime defeat to France as Celine Dumerc hit a three with 0.2 seconds left.
Canada’s 79-73 win over Brazil earlier had already ensured they cannot be overtaken by GB or the Brazilians after winning the head to head against both.
But Jo Leedham had a game-best 29 points in a display that did so much to underline the spirit of a side which is now a force to be reckoned with.
If not for the heroics of Dumerc, whose only other three to force OT at 67-67, it would have been euphoria not agony.
“It’s heartbreaking for us,” she said. And everyone else who watched.
Britain face Brazil on Sunday in their last game and more of the same will surely see them break their duck. But yet again, they came so near but so far against a team which will contend for a medal next weekend.
But there were so many pluses to take from defeat.
Julie Page got Great Britain off the mark with a hook shot inside as the Olympic hosts started on a 6-0 run before Dumerc got France off the mark. GB though started with more promise and deserved their early advantage.
France though responded and tied the game at 8-8 thanks to Edwige Lawson-Wade but Rose Anderson, winning her 50th cap for Great Britain, connected for three to give Britain an 11-8 lead which they would not relinquish for the remainder of the first quarter as GB led 13-10.
Stafford opened the second quarter with a floater inside as Great Britain looked to attack the French in the early stages of the period. A bucket from Leedham extended the Brits’ lead to 17-12 with 6:00 minutes left in the half.
France though regrouped to take the lead at 21-19 due to a coast-to-coast lay-up from Sandrine Gruda – Kim Butler answered right back to tie the game at 21-21 but it was the French who ended the second quarter the stronger, as they led 27-23 at the half.
Great Britain tied the game in the third through free-throws from Leedham, which ended a 6-0 burst as France hit their next two shots to lead 40-36 – but thanks to Leedham again – the Brits hit back to tie the contest at 42, but Edwige Lawson-Wade had other ideas and she scored the final five points for France to give them a 47-44 lead after the third quarter.
The fourth was an intense back-and-forth battle full of physicality and passion. Stafford, Leedham and Kim Butler, who got 12 points off the bench hit in a 6-0 GB burst that gave them a 54-53 lead.
Page nailed a three to send the crowd into raptures, and the cause was helped further by Leedham as she hit a tough lay-up in traffic and kept her composure to sink two foul shots to give Britain a 67-62 lead with 1:56 to go.
Dumerc though had other ideas, as she sunk a huge three with 9.3 seconds left in regulation to end the game to overtime.
And it was Les Bleues captain who had the last laugh with seconds remaining to break the hearts of the 8,883 inside the Basketball Arena.
“We played France a couple of weeks ago and won so we were looking for a repeat performance,” said Page. “They have a lot of big names but we weren’t thinking about that. Our motto is to fight and to give 120 per cent and I feel like we did that.
“Basketball-wise we are still a young team, we have been working hard and I feel that if we continue to do so in future years we will become a very competitive team.
“We are already competing with the world’s best teams so we are doing great. I’m so proud of the girls, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Dumerc had 14 points for France, but they were led by Gruda and Lawson-Wade’s 16 points.
Elsewhere, Turkey and Australia also booked their spots in the last eight while the USA’s 88-61 win over the Czech Republic ensured the Americans will top group A. The Czechs must beat Angola on Sunday to be sure of their place in quarters.
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Other Games: Angola 56-75 Croatia, Russia 66-70 Australia, Brazil 73-79 Canada, Turkey 82-55 China, Czech Rep 61-81 USA
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