Great Britain ended up in fourth place at EuroBasket after losing 81-55 to Serbia in the bronze medal game.

Out of gas after this amazing run, seven games in 11 days that have elevated the status of Chema Buceta’s side to new and unprecedented heights and which will do so much for British basketball.

Seeking one last remarkable elevation, GB instead went flat with 19-4 run in the third quarter and a spate of turnovers providing the co-hosts with an opportunity to ruthlessly seize a consolation reward.

To Spain the real spoils with an 86-66 victory over France in the final.

But even though the Brits went out with a relative whimper, we should not forget the bang of earning a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament next February.

Real gains, tangible prizes, despite missing out on the fairytale land of a trip onto the podium.

“Second half today was probably too much in terms of tiredness,” admitted Buceta. “No excuse. But that is the reality, We faced a long competition with all the tough games. Even the games we won easier like against Latvia and Ukraine, were very tough. We had to give 100 per cent to win.

“But that is it. If we want to be on the top, we have to learn how to play seven games in eleven days. We have to be able to do that. If we could not do it this time, we have to do it next time. Because we are going to the pre-Olympic to qualify, not to show up. We have to be ready.”

And, certainly, reputations have been burnished, especially for Temi Fagbenle who collected a game-high 23 points and added six rebounds with the centre deservedly earning a place on the all-tournament All Star Five team.

Others too.

“They are role models for other people,” the Spaniard added.

Yet the Serbs – even without the injured Ana Dabovic – have been at this level for a long while and they jumped out to a quick lead that was never surrendered.

15-8 ahead, Rachael Vanderwal sparked a 6-0 run that slashed the deficit to one but that was as close as GB would ever come.

Their three-point struggles – converting just 2-for-20 – were painful and caused damage. It took nine attempts to collect just one amid a burst of seven unanswered points that slowed another Serb acceleration to 35-33 in front.

Before then, GB had notched 23 of their initial 26 points gained in the paint with Buceta emphasising in a timeout that his team only flourish when they “play good defence”.

This was below the level he has demanded.

Serbia led 40-33 at half-time. Remarkably, the first time all tournament GB had trailed at the interval.

The gap grew and grew.

“It’s been a long tournament and both emotionally and physically we just weren’t there,” Rachael Vanderwal conceded.

Out-scored 21-16 in the third, Buceta’s players were held without a field goal for almost five minutes with eight turnovers in the period.

Leedham, who has played the most minutes in the entire tournament, stopped the rot but even the team’s energiser was as flat as she has been in a magnificent run through Riga and Belgrade. Yet she still added ten rebounds and eight points.

However a 6-0 start from Serbia effectively killed off this game. And aside from a brief spurt of six unanswered points mid-period, the roll continued with Sonja Petrovic pacing the charge with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

GB, following that semi-final loss to France, with one painful defeat at the end.

“Everyone is tired at this stage,” added Vanderwal, who added 11 points. “It takes everything out of you and today it showed that we were a bit tired today. But it’s no excuse.”

But what went before was immense. The best-ever performance by any British team, male or female.

The real takeaway here. And the opportunity to reach Tokyo 2020 with another big showing next year.

“It’s definitely in sight,” Leedham grinned. “That’s a goal now and it’s definitely something we will take away from this tournament.”

UpdatesGame Stats

Game Notes

GB starters: Vanderwal, Samuelson, Leedham, Handy, Fagbenle

Ana Dabovic was a DNP with a broken hand.

Photos: Mansoor Ahmed 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login