Great Britain must sweat on their place at Women’s EuroBasket 2021 after a 67-57 loss to Belarus.

Victory would have secured automatic qualification into June’s showpiece in France and Spain. for Chema Buceta’s side as Group F winners.

Instead, destiny slipped out of their hands in Riga during a fourth quarter when they were out-scored 15-6 in a spell plagued by errors and inattentions.

Losers of this head-to-head, and no longer able to finish in top spot in the pool, GB must now await the outcome of Saturday’s closing scrap between the Belarusians and Poland – and perhaps beyond – to discover whether, they grab a ticket to the finals as one of the best-placed group runners-up.

Despite it all, Temi Fagbenle was immense, as she has often been before. A reliable presence amid a frequently malfunctioning offense that struggled to get – and convert – open shots.

In the previous meeting between these teams in Manchester, 16 months earlier, it was the visitors’ tall totems who held sway.

On neutral terrain, Buceta had the luxury of adding WNBAer Kristine Anigwe to form twin towers and, defensively at least, it restrained the Belarus bigs.

With ten of her game-high 23 points in the opening quarter, Fagbenle’s prolificacy was much needed.

On the perimeter, Belarus – chastened by their surprise 68-58 loss to Poland 24 hours before – displayed much greater urgency a day later.

Karlie Samuelson broke free of the shackles with a three-pointer that keyed a 7-0 run that put GB 24-21 ahead, four minutes into the second period.

But it was a case of grabbing what they could.

In the quarter, the Britons were 1/9 from 2-point range but an astonishing 13/14 from the foul line.

Down 34-33 at half-time following nine lead changes, the last a floater from Yuliya Rytsikava with one second left, GB looked cagey and all too aware of the high stakes at play.

The back and forth continued, although more fluidity arrived offensively for Buceta’s team. A three from Eilidh Simpson put them in front early in the third. Then, Anigwe, having missed her first five field goal attempts, asserted herself in the post.

However once again, Rytsikava – who ended with a team-best 17 points – popped up with one second left in the period. From long range, her three nudged the Belarusians 52-51 in front headed into the fourth. They would never trail again.

It was the start of ten unanswered points that forced Buceta into a time out with 7:26 remaining and an urgent need to becalm nerves and refocus minds.

Simpson – a critical absentee during last spring’s Olympic qualifiers – halted the slide with a running floater and although Fagbenle, who added 13 rebounds, trimmed the deficit to four off an unsportsmanlike foul from Anastasiya Verameyenka, she missed both free throws after previously draining five without blemish.

Yet Verameyenka, a veteran now, was unnerved, injecting 15 points and ten rebounds. Her vital three, followed by another 22 seconds later from Katsiaryna Snytsina, elongated Belarus’ advantage to 65-55. An additional GB timeout. A further response urgently demanded.

But none came as Belarus – surely favoured now to head the final standings – limited opportunities and closed the door shut as the semi-finalists from 2019 saw their chances to even improve their overall points differential quickly fade, ultimately converting a mere 19/61 from the field.

Samuelson, scoreless in the second half, provided 12 points on 2/12 shooting.

Sign up for the new MVP Mail – your regular email newsletter with exclusive news and features.

Group standings: 1. Great Britain (2-2), 2. Belarus (2-1), 3. Poland (1-2). Remaining games. Saturday: Poland v Belarus (11.30)

Game Stats

Game Notes

GB starters v Belarus: Simpson, Samuelson, Handy, Anigwe, Fagbenle. There was a first cap for Shequila Joseph, who did not play.

Elsewhere, Bosnia and Herzeogvina bested Switzerland 67-62 to reach EuroBasket for the first time since 1999 while Croatia overcame Germany to top their group.



Photos: FIBA


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

You must be logged in to post a comment Login