Great Britain v Czech RepublicGreat Britain lost 66-55 to the Czech Republic in their opening game of the second round at EuroBasket Women in Vendée on Wednesday. 

An often ragged display from Damian Jennings’ side saw their errors punished and their lack of size over-powered.

With the Belarussians and Croats still to come in Group F, a quarter-final spot remains within reach but they will need better to achieve the single victory which might prove enough.

“We have two more opportunities in this second round,” said Jennings. “We are not just here as tourists. We are a young basketball nation and we want to get very far so we are looking forward to the next two games.”

A three from Jo Leedham  – who had a team-high 20 points – capped a promising 7-2 start from GB but the Czechs, world championship runners-up in 2011, imposed themselves by converting defensive pressure into scoring opportunities.

Holding their rivals scoreless for almost seven minutes, the Czechs scored nine consecutive points to go 21-13 in front early in the second period as Britain’s sustained an extra blow when London-born forward Ella Clark hobbled off with an ankle injury.

Butler: lessons (Mansoor Ahmed)

Butler: lessons (Mansoor Ahmed)

And although Chantelle Handy and Rachael Vanderwal shared the load in an 8-2 burst that brought GB back within two, they would trail 32-23 at half-time with Michaela Zrustova’s late three capping a stretch of seven consecutive points into the break.

GB were struggling to make threes of their own or find traction inside the perimeter. Turnovers, 20 by the end, hindered their hopes and broke up their rhythm. While the Czech bigs dealt out one block after another.

“We knew they had great shooters and size inside,” Kim Butler admitted.

“We started pretty well but getting down nine points at half-time and fighting back was pretty tough.”

Doggedly, Jennings’ side kept up their chase. Butler hit back-to-back scores which cut the deficit to 39-34 but it was as close as they came.

Threes from Katerina Elhotova and Katerina Bartonova exposed the disarray as an 8-0 run widened the gap and for the first time in France, Britain looked rattled.

Although Butler and Leedham tried to spark a rally, the Czechs – paced by 20 points from Zrustova – moved as much as 58-43 in front with 5:12 left, coasting to a win which all but assures them of a place in the last eight.

Jennings knows the slim margins now in play.

“I thought we did some good things if you look at some of the stats, points in the paint and our possession game,” he declared. “But these are the lessons against the next tier of countries.”

The other games in Group F saw Belarus sustain a surprise 54-48 defeat to Serbia.

While France remain unbeaten France but they were pushed for the first time by Croatia who came from 31 points down before losing 78-70.




Quarters: (GB 13-17 Cze, 32-23, 47-36)

Ella Clark went off with an apparent sprained ankle with 7:47 left in the second quarter and did not return.

Pics: Mansoor Ahmed/BB

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