There was to be no dream debut for Great Britain at EuroBasket as Tom Maher’s side were comfortably despatched by Belarus as the Group B favourites swept to a 55-40 victory in Bydgoszcz.

But there were still positives for the Australian to take headed into Sunday’s tie against the Czech Republic.

Maher had asked for determination and grit. He got it. Despite the Belarussians’ superior size and experience, they were never able to coast. With Kim Butler grabbing a team-best 8 points and 6 rebounds, there were solid showings.

As a team, GB is not yet at their opponents’ level. In time, however, who knows what may occur.

GB's forward line was persistent (MAP)

“I can’t be upset because I though we worked really hard and we have never really played a team at the same kind of level as Belarus are at,” the Australian coach said. “I don’t think you can expect to bear a team as highly ranked as Belarus and who are so physically capable.

“I am not unhappy with our performance and at least I think we tried hard and that is always a measure of what you want to see.”

The 2011 world championship semi-finalists found themselves under unexpected pressure from the rookies in the opening period, Britain opening the scoring through Chantelle Handy and then responding to their first test by levelling at 8-8 after Jo Leedham came off the bench.

However a single free throw from Marina Kress put Belarus in front for good with 2:44 left in the quarter and their top-level experience was evident as they surged away from the London 2012 hosts.

A 13-2 run in the second extended their advantage to 27-13 and although Rose Anderson, winning her 25th cap, provided a spark which ignited a 5-0 spurt, the Belarussians looked entirely at ease as they took a 31-20 lead at half-time.

Asserting her strength under the basket, Yelena Leuchanka towered above under-sized Britain as the group favourites ruthlessly raced out of sight, grabbing a game-high 8 rebounds.

Chasing every loose ball and every half-chance of possession, the industrious trio of Azania Stewart, Julie Page and Butler – who has signed for Italian side Comense – took it in turns to try and push open the door. Although they forced 22 turnovers, there was simply no way through.

Jo Leedham had 4 points in 20 mins (MAP)

Belarus drove home every advantage to go 45-28 clear at the end of the third and, by mid-way through the fourth, GB were trailing 51-30 and merely looking to salvage some priceless insights.

It was, lest we forget, their baptism on the championship stage.

There are two games left to ensure it is not a short-lived one.

“It was our first major finals game in Europe for GB and we worked really hard and showed people that we can play at this level,” said Page.

“We talked before the game about playing tough defence, and I think we did that; we had energy and worked as a team to help each other out.”

Elsewhere in Group B, the Czech Republic dominated Israel to claim a 72-56 victory to take pole position at the end of the opening day.

Day 1 Results

Group A: Turkey 58 Lithuania 64, Russia 68 Slovakia 66

Group B. Great Britain 40 Belarus 55, Czech Republic 72 Israel 56

Group C: Spain 79 Germany 69, Poland 53 Montenegro 70

Group D: Greece 67 Latvia 57, France 86 Croatia 40.


Brits lack Dutch courage

GB under-20 women suffered a blow in their European Championship preparations as they lost 81-59 against the Netherlands in Glamorgan.

Against a side they had beaten 68-63 the previous day, Damian Jennings’ side – led by 10 points from Kristie Sheils – failed to capitalise on a strong start as the Dutch split the two game series.

Britain shaded the first period 15-13 but were pinned back as the Dutch took a 36-30 lead at half-time.

The visitors extended their cushion to 16 at the close of the third and they continued to pull away.



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