Great Britain lost 71-61 to Belarus in their second game of the second round at EuroBasket Women on Friday.
They must now beat Croatia on Sunday to have any chance of making the last eight in France in what is a two-way fight with Serbia for the fourth and final berth out of Group F.
Jo Leedham had a game-high 16 points. Her side had a golden opportunity to improve their hopes. Destiny is now out of their own hands with only a combination of a Czech win over Serbia, and a GB defeat of the Croats, sending them into the knockout phase.
There were times when Damian Jennings side stood shoulder to shoulder with their bigger, more experienced foes and did not relent.
But, once again, there were too many lapses, too many moments where tentative approaches were punished. And just not enough of a killer touch.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” Leedham acknowledged.
“We didn’t play solid enough. They just out-hustled us and won the possession game and worked harder than us. They beat us at our own game.”
Faced with the prospect of countering the inside presence of Yelena Leuchanka and Anastasiya Verameyenka, GB stood up early and went 8-2 in front but their passivity returned and their foes sprung into life.
Leuchanka ignited an 11-0 run, holding their opponents scoreless for over four minutes and although British responded, a second foul acquired by Azania Stewart proved costly.
Dominique Allen was the sole aggressor inside. The young forward is coming of age. She began a 7-0 run that put her side up 17-15 early in the second period and showed a willingness to put her body on the line as Stewart watched on.
Others were not so brave. Belarus pounced. A 13-2 burst sent them 30-21 in front as confidence drained from their rivals.
Down 34-28 at half-time, GB needed a spark at both ends. If Leedham had been the torchbearer in the first half, it was Chantelle Handy’s turn to light the fuse.
The Durham-born forward, newly signed at nearby Nantes, found her touch as Jennings’ side shut down the Belarussians for six minutes while converting 12 points without reply.
Their dysfunctional opponents were rattled as they trailed 44-38. But they were not yet done.
A three from Marina Kress began a 9-0 flurry that put Belarus in front and it was GB’s turn to scramble.
After Kim Butler levelled at 49-49, Katsiaryna Snytsina drained a jumper from long-range with 6:07 left, starting a 12-2 run that emphatically broke open the contest.
The Belarussians, along with the Czechs, are now added to list of qualifiers for the quarter-finals. GB’s fate is no longer entirely in their own hands.
“Playing against us is tough,” Jennings said. “We don’t get fear any of these countries that have a more established history than us in terms of basketball and we came here thinking we can win. So we sit here disappointed because we didn’t commit to our brand of basketball for 40 minutes. When we did in spells, we found some joy.
“To hold them to nine points in the third quarter, to hold them to 15-15 in the first quarter, to go up at the start, it’s disappointing to be on a rollercoaster. But we know that what we do puts us into situations in games where it tends to be five, six points in it. We have to play for 40 minutes and today we didn’t.”
Snytsina led Belarus with 15 points with Leuchanka adding 11 points and 13 rebounds, with the win meaning they and the Czech Republic are both assured of a spot in the last eight, leaving just one place remaining.
But the Belarussians will need better against the French on Sunday, said their coach Rimantas Grigas.
“It was a tough game mentally for us because we lost our last game to Serbia and made a lot of mistakes,” he said.
“So we were nervous and our opponents felt that. But this was also the same for our opponents and we coped better with the nerves and grabbed the win.”
Ella Clark sat out with an ankle injury. She is expected to return on Sunday.
In the first game of the day in Group F, Serbia claimed a 77-64 victory over Croatia with Jelena Milovanovic scoring a game-high 19 points. The Croatians can no longer reach the quarter-finals.
While the late game saw France, led by 21 points from Sandrine Grude, remain unbeaten with a 62-49 victory over Czech Republic.
Pics: Mansoor Ahmed Photography/BB
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