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GREAT BRITAIN EDGE SERBIA IN OPENER
- Updated: June 15, 2013
Great Britain defeated Serbia 76-68 in their opening game at EuroBasket Women in Trélazé on Saturday.
It was just the start they wanted to the tournament.
Dealing with adversity. Coping with ups and downs. And getting help from unexpected places in a game that was only secured in the final minute following a 15-3 run which was immaculately timed.
“The thing we are most proud is that we dealt with the momentum change when Serbia’s press was causing us problems,” said GB coach Damian Jennings.
“We managed to deal with that over a period of time when it started to look like it was going their way. “But some of the DNA that has been part of our existence in Great Britain, since Tom Maher took over particularly, has meant that we never give up.
“More than that you can work hard but to make the decisions under pressure is another thing.
With Azania Stewart asserting herself in the paint, and Jo Leedham back on national duty for the first time since the Olympics, GB broke out early to take an 18-13 cushion at the end of the opening quarter.
And their momentum continued, Stef Collins hitting a three to spark a 7-0 run early in the second.
However Serbia, looking to re-build their reputation after a long spell in the wilderness, began to find their own range, taking advantage of turnovers to pull ahead with a 10-2 burst.
Jennings got a response. His team held the Serbs scoreless for over three minutes. A 13-3 burst delivered a 33-27 lead.
Milica Dabovic hit six consecutive throws in a 11-3 flurry that cut the gap to a single point before Collins, boxed in and running out of clock, dropped in a floater that put the British 41-38 in front at half-time.
The battle was only just beginning.
A full-on press proved problematic for GB and they went over four minutes without a basket as their Group C rivals reeled off eleven consecutive points.
And, having trailed 59-52 headed into the final period, British hopes were dealt another blow when Kim Butler fouled out with seven minutes left.
However, they declined to back down.
Ella Clark, in her first major tournament, cut the deficit to one with a three-pointer and then Rachael Vanderwal converted from long-range to put Jennings’ side up 67-65 with 3:18 to go.
Leedham, from the line, increased the gap to four but it became a battle to last the distance.
GB survived, just, with Collins polishing matters off, and her side now move on to face Latvia on Sunday when another win will be enough to book a place in the second round.
“We knew from the start that Serbia was a great team, very aggressive and they’d come out ready,” Stewart affirmed. “They made a great run with their press and we struggled a little bit. But we bounced right back.
“And I’m very proud of the girls today because a few years ago we wouldn’t have pulled that win out. But we did today. It really gives us momentum for the rest of the tournament.”
Stewart and Steph Gandy had 13 points apiece with Leedham ending with a double-double of 12 points and ten rebounds.
Now Jennings must prepare his squad for what is a vital game with the Latvians, who narrowly beat GB in the lead up to EuroBasket.
“It helps we have the earlier game (on Saturday),” said Jennings. “We’ll have a film session and go after the second win. We’re fortunate that we have played Latvia already so that helps us with the intel. And I think that will keep things fairly even.”
Jelena Milovanovic scored a game-high 19 points for Serbia.
In Group C’s other game, favourites France crushed Latvia 62-39 behind 17 points from Isabelle Yacoubou.
Elsewhere, Spain took a 77-72 win over reigning champions Russia, paced by 30 from Alba Torrens.
3rd: GB 52-59 Ser. HT: GB 41-38 Ser (Azania 10, Gandy 8). 1st quarter: GB 18-13 Ser
GB starters: Collins, Leedham, Handy, Butler, Stewart. Lauren Thomas-Johnson was held out injured but is expected to return against Latvia.
DAY 1 RESULTS
Montenegro 77-63 Slovakia, Ukraine 52-78 Turkey
Sweden 63-64 Italy, Spain 77-72 Russia
Great Britain 76-68 Serbia, France 62-39 Latvia
Lithuania 77-89 Croatia, Belarus 60-39 Czech Rep.