Azania 568

Great Britain’s women have qualified for next year’s EuroBasket finals despite a 70-63 defeat to Lithuania in Worcester that saw them finish second in their group.

Peter Buckle’s side, who ended with a 4-2 record, were assured of their spot in Hungary and Romanic next summer when Bulgaria beat Israel earlier in the day to ensure GB would end up, at least, among the best second-placed sides.

“We found out when we were waiting for the bus and we had a little celebration but we still wanted to come out here because we’ve worked so hard and to finish five and one would have been great for us,” said Azania Stewart, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds in a sterling performance.

“We qualified because we worked hard on the road for 11 days but we wanted to get this victory to say thank you to the fans but – tough loss, but we’re not going to hang our heads because we’ve done what we came here to do and that’s qualify for 2015.”

Despite a team-best 13 points from Rachael Vanderwal, Lithuania – paced by 16 from Kamile Nacickaite – pulled out the win they needed to top the standings, pulling ahead for good late in the second quarter before going as much as ten clear in the fourth.

Nonetheless, Buckle was satisfied with the manner in which his blend of youth and experience seized the challenge this summer and kept to their task.

Fighting spirit (Mansoor Ahmed)

Fighting spirit (Mansoor Ahmed)

“It’s how we want to play – it suits our team,” the Australian said. “We played it hard up and down the floor and tried to get Lithuania out of their stuff. Some really good things occurred because of that because we did it as best we could for 40 minutes and it shows that we were in good shape.”

Temi Fagbenle missed the final game for Britain due to “academic reasons” with the centre given leave to begin a summer placement from Harvard University in South Africa. Under-20 cap Harriet Ottewill-Soulsby was called in as a replacement. Belgium finished third in Group B with a 95-58 rout of winless Macedonia.

The achievement of qualifying is expected to put pressure on UK Sport to re-consider their decision to remove funding from British Basketball with GB still in contention to earn a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Group B. Final standings. 1. Lithuania (5-1), 2. Great Britain (4-2), 3. Belgium (3-3), 4. Macedonia (0-6)

Nine other teams punched their ticket to EuroBasket Women 2015 after the conclusion of the 2nd Qualification Round.

Croatia, Latvia, Montenegro, Russia and Slovakia qualified as winners of the other five groups.

Poland (3-1), Sweden (3-1), Ukraine (3-1),and Italy (2-2), advanced as the remaining five best second-placed teams.

The eleven teams join the nine countries who had secured a spot in the event already before – hosts Hungary and Romania; Spain, France, Turkey, Serbia, Belarus and Czech Republic who play in the FIBA World Championship for Women later this year; and Greece who advanced through the 1st Qualification Round last summer.

The EuroBasket Women 2015 tournament will take place between 11 -28 June 2015.

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