Great Britain lost 72-69 in Estonia to remain winless in qualification for EuroBasket Women 2023.

In a group where only first place lands the prize of automatic progression to the finals and the mathematics for advancing for the runner-up are complex and fraught with risk, an 0-2 start already leaves Chema Buceta’s side pushing precariously uphill.

This was not a game they were forecast to lose.

Yet with Temi Fagbenle absent in Tallinn due to a knee issue and with Karlie Samuelson limited to less than 14 minutes on the floor following a hard knock at the end of the first half, GB were forced to look for inspiration elsewhere.

Despite 17 points and 12 rebounds from Azania Stewart, Estonia’s physicality was disruptive and GB’s shooters, who went 3-25 from three-point range, could not provide an alternative route.

And although the visitors trailed by a single point and held possession with 12 seconds left, a turnover from Holly Winterburn and a loss of possession proved fatal, with a late Hail Mary from Chantelle Handy to force overtime missing its mark.

Elsewhere, Greece consolidated top spot in Group G with a 64-57 win over Portugal.

But GB expected more out of this first window and although they got off to a ragged start as Buceta played with numerous line-ups in the opening period, a 19-19 deadlock after ten minutes left like a mere testing of the waters before making a splash.

It was not.

Estonia made a push to seize a 28-25 advantage with six minutes left in the second before a late 8-0 run propelled the guests as much as seven clear and into a 41-35 lead at half-time.

Samuelson was felled but even a brief review from officials saw them opt against a penalty. The Salamanca guard was an absentee, even from the bench, thereafter and it created a costly vacuum.

An 8-2 Estonia burst propelled the hosts a 47-45 in front with Buceta calling a time out with 5:16 left in the third and the Brits toiling offensively in the paint.

Tied once more at 51-51 entering the fourth, Estonia vitally embarked on a 12-4 run in the fourth to stretch their lead to seven.

Handy’s jumper and a three from Winterburn, who coped admirably with a heavy load on only her second senior appearance, slashed the gap to 70-69 with 31 seconds left.

But with possession and just eight seconds left, the London Lions guard was stripped of the ball, leaving Handy with little option but to commit an unsportsmanlike foul.

Janne Pulk made 1-2 from the line, as did Johanna Eliise Teder – who had a team-best 15 points – off a subsequent inbound.

With GB requiring a three to prolong hopes, Handy’s shot found nothing but air, leaving the home side ultimately  to celebrate an unexpected victory when it was adjudged that Georgia Gayle had stepped out of bounds on a desperation heave at the death.

The rules may mean that this result is eventually discounted if the Estonians finish bottom of the pool. A rebound will be required next year, and emphatically so.

Game Stats

Group G Standings: 1. Greece (2-0), 2. Portugal (1-1),  3. Estonia (1-1), 4. Great Britain (0-2)

GB starters: Robb, Vanderwal, Samuelson, Green, Stewart. Temi Fagbenle was omitted from the squad (knee).


Image: FIBA

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