GB Senior Women Out Despite Victory Over Croatia -

GB Senior Women Out Despite Victory Over Croatia

Great Britain v CroatiaThe Standard Life Great Britain side narrowly missed out on a place in the quarter-finals of EuroBasket Women despite an 85-79 victory over Croatia on Sunday in Vendee.

The result left Damian Jennings’ side in fifth place in Group F, their best placing of the modern era, but they went into the game knowing their mathematical hopes of advancing had been ended by Serbia’s 75-59 win over the Czech Republic earlier in the day.

However Jennings, at the end of his first campaign in charge, sees shoots of immense promise as British Basketball build towards what is seen as a potential medal challenge by the 2020 Olympic Games.

“We did make history today, as a Great Britain side, even though we didn’t make it to the quarter-finals,” Jennings said.

“We got our first win in the second round at a EuroBasket. We come out of this tournament 3 and 3. There will be very few people who won’t be saying we shouldn’t have got this far or even a stage further.”

Ultimately, GB lost out on the small margin of head-to-head record with the Czechs, despite finishing on the same number of points as the finalists at the last FIBA World Championships.

But they went out with a fine performance, headlined by Jo Leedham who collected 26 points, ten rebounds and nine assists.

A three-pointer from Rachael Vanderwal began a 16-0 run that took Britain ahead for good midway through the first period, holding their experienced opponents scoreless for over six minutes.

Kim Butler, making her 75th and last appearance for GB, hit a three-pointer that opened up a 24-13 lead with 7:58 left in the second period.

Then, Rose Anderson delivered seven points off the bench in quick succession as the advantage grew to as much as 38-21.

But Emanuela Salopek’s long-range score trimmed the deficit to 44-34 at half-time, and then another three from Ana Lelas bringing the Croats within five early in the third.

Leedham and Butler served up a response. But the game swung back and forth. Lelas, who paced the Croats with 17 points, capped a 13-2 run which cut the British lead to 69-67 with five minutes left.

However Leedham proved herself supreme once again, leading a late decisive break to end up just one rebound short of a triple-double.

“A lot of people said this game wasn’t for anything and it didn’t matter but I definitely disagree with that,” said Butler, who signed off with a haul of 17 points.

“We played for pride, we played for GB. GB Basketball has been through a hell of a journey in my eight years with the team.

“That is my last game, I’m definitely retiring. I couldn’t be happier than to do it playing for Damian. He’s seen the road, and all the ups and downs. The Olympics was my goal but now it’s time to hang the boots up and move on.”

Britain’s women will play in summer 2014 in the qualification round for the 2015 EuroBasket, which will be held jointly in Hungary and Romania.

France, Belarus, the Czech Republic are the other three teams qualifying out of Group F for the quarter-finals which begin in Orchies on Wednesday.

“It was a really tough game emotionally but we pulled through in the end and we did our country proud,” said Leedham. “But it’s a little disappointing and bitter sweet in the end.”

British Basketball’s National Teams Director, Warwick Cann commented on the team’s competitive EuroBasket campaign: “The GB women have made excellent progress this summer, to have held their own and to have only narrowly lost out to the number 4, 5 and 10 in the world is a great achievement and clearly illustrates their competitiveness on the world stage.”

Box score.

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