Great Britain star Johannah Leedham believes her side can now look forward to the Olympics with confidence after their performances at EuroBasket in Poland.

Although Tom Maher’s side were already condemned to a second round exit, they led for most of the contest against Russia in their final tie before the pre-tournament favourites scored 8 of the last 10 points to snatch a 62-59 victory.

However Leedham is certain that GB, in their first-ever appearance at this level, have earned the respect of their peers after a victory over Israel and a series of gritty showings.

“I don’t think we’re ready for the Olympics just yet but we took a step further than we took last year,” said the former WNBA draftee.

“We worked hard and teams have to respect us and the way we play. They know when they play Great Britain, they’re not just going to win the game. They have to beat us.

“We’re a tough team. We’re a banana skin team. And that’s what we came here to do and we have to see that as a positive.”

Britain led by as much as 25-10 in the second period and although Russia surged, Kim Butler – who had a team-high 15 points – put her side up 55-45 with just over five minutes left.

However Maher’s players showed their inexperience and their powerful rivals swept past to book a quarter-final spot.

“I think we worked so hard throughout the game and to end it how we did is just disappointing,” Leedham said.

“It’s just experience. It was the same in the Lithuania game. We just have to know how to win and it shows at times. We have to just keep our focus when it comes down to crucial moments.”

Meanwhile Maher has defended his side from accusations of foul play from Russian coach Boris Sokolovsky accused Britain of playing dirty.

“It was not basketball tonight,” he said. “It was like ice hockey for most of the game. The referees must take the blame because they didn’t take control. Great Britain is a very tough team. Very tough.

“I respect Tom Maher a lot. He prepared a good team. But we came here to play basketball, not hockey. There were too many provocations.”

However Maher insists the style of play which has served them well in Poland is merely hard work.

“It’s on the tape,” the Australian said. “So if I hear that we played in a dirty way, I’m not going to say it’s OK. I didn’t see any cheap shots. it’s on the tape. We can have a look at it. We can see the highlights.”


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