- National Teams
Despite winning the battle statistically, out-rebounding their opponents, scoring more points in the paint and going to the free throw line more often, it wasn’t enough as the GB Senior Women’s team went down to Bulgaria 64-61 in the first of a three-game series.
It was Bulgaria’s Doneeka Hodges who was the difference in the game, finishing with 26 points, going 4/7 from three and coming up big in crunch time. Jo Leedham was the top scorer for GB with 20 points, being the only player in double digits.
Great Britain were more aggressive at the start of the game and Jo Leedham scored the first points of the game after drawing a foul with a drive to the basket with 46 seconds played.
However Great Britain were unable to turn the early domination into points and the teams were back on level terms (2-2) Zhaklin Zlatanova was allowed all the time in the world to score with two minutes played.
The game became rather scrappy and Tom Maher started to rotate his roster.
The Bulgarian team included former WNBA player Donetta Hodges, who gave the GB girls a hard time as the Bulgarians edged in front (8-6).
Stephanie Collins was showing a good turn of pace that allowed Chantelle Hardy the room to hit a trey for GB to regain the lead (9-8) midway through the first quarter.
GB controlled the pace of the game for the rest of the first quarter with a strong play in the paint to lead (23-18) going into the second quarter.
GB struggled to find their scoring touch during the second quarter and managed to hit just two shoots from open play. But good free-throw shooting enabled them to hold on to the lead.
Great Britain led (35-32) at the interval thanks to solid shooting from the free-throw line with 12-of-15. Bulgaria were just 1-of-9 in the same exercise.
After the break Hodges went to work for Bulgaria in the scoring department with 5 points to bring the teams back on level terms (37-37) with a little of 22 minutes played.
Hodges continued her one-lady-demolition job as the hosts went into the lead (43-39) with just under 24 minutes on the game clock.
Maher was forced to change things on the court and made a number of substitutions as his players failed to score and turned the ball over time and time again.
Bulgaria were not playing much better but kept Great Britain scoreless for almost five minutes as they stretched their lead (49-41).
Leedham ended the Great Britain nightmare with the last points of the third quarter but failed to make it a three-point play by missing the free-throw (43-49).
Bulgaria scored the first two baskets of the final quarter to open the first big lead of the match (53-43) with nine minutes left to play.
Great Britain went back to the system played during the first quarter and were quickly rewarded with back to back scores from Kim Butler and Azania Steward.
Jose Maria Buceta, the coach from Bulgaria decided to call for a time-out while Maher, the GB coach decided to make it a double time-out.
His tactic worked as GB maintained the momentum and Leedham went on to score back to back baskets and with five minutes left to play Julia Page brought the teams back on level terms (53-53).
Bulgaria regained the advantage and appeared to have the game won after scoring 3 unanswered baskets to lead (59-53) as the game was entering money-time.
Great Britain replied with 5 points but Hodges spoiled the party with a shot from behind the new three-point line to swing the game in favour of the hosts with less than 20 seconds to play.
Maher used up his final time-out when Leedham was fouled with about 9 seconds left to play. It appeared that he wanted her to miss the second free-throw, which she did but Hodges beat Page to the rebound.
Hodges scored her free-throws and Great Britain required 5 points in 7 seconds to force overtime.
Afterwards Leedham scored 2 points and Bulgaria won game one.
Huge thank to Women’s Basketball In France for the writeup.