HEARTBREAK IN GB U20 OPENER

british_basketball_new_logo_568Great Britain Under-20 Women were beaten 60-57 at the buzzer by Macedonia in their opening game of the European Championships in Albena, Bulgaria on Thursday.

Billie Lucas’ jump shot on the fast-break had tied the scores at 57-57 with just seven seconds remaining.

But, following a time-out from coach Aleksandar Domlevski, point guard Ivona Pejkovska connected from beyond the arc to settle a see-saw first night in the Division B competition.

The teams traded baskets early on as the first period finished with GB trailing 15-13 before that deficit was widened to 29-25 at half-time.

Matt Johnson’s side seized the initiative after the break however. An 8-0 run made up of baskets from Lucas, Shequila Joseph, Claire Paxton, and a pair of free throws from Rosie Hynes, handed them their biggest lead at 46-37, only for Nena Trajchevska to respond with two fast-break baskets to close the quarter at 46-41 to GB.

The gap was up to seven when Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby opened the final stanza by hitting a jump shot but it was nip and tuck after that.

Pejkovska made back-to-back lay-ups to tie the game at 50 with 4.28 to play and it looked like the tie had swung Macedonia’s way.

But the Brits kept battling and when Aleksandra Stojanovska could only split a pair of free throws it gave GB a chance at 57-55 down with 15 seconds to play.

Lucas managed to connect with the last of her 13 points to tie it up before Pejkovska’s last second heroics won it for Macedonia.

Melita Emanuel-Carr contributed ten points for Great Britain while Ottewill-Soulsby had 14 rebounds to go with her eight points.

Pejkovska may take the plaudits for her team but Andzelika Mitrasinovik filled the stats sheet with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

“We had really positive contributions from all 12 players which is important to our group,” said GB coach Johnson. We congratulate Macedonia on their win today but we cannot help feeling that we beat ourselves after so many promising statistics.

“We had 81 shots from the field, over 40 shot attempts for our inside players, and 25 free throws which is our highest in any game so far. We managed to attempt over 100 possessions and were in a great position to win. However 26% from the floor and 52% from the line are the stats we are held accountable by, but we are looking forward to playing again tomorrow.”

Great Britain will face Bulgaria tomorrow, another team coming off a tough loss (70-67) against Belgium while elsewhere in the group, the Czech Republic beat Latvia 67-59 and Portugal cruised past Israel 66-38.

JOE HEWISON

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