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Basketball - 11. September 2008.

FIBA Europe – British women struggle for results but enjoy improvement

DRUSKININKAI (EuroBasket Women Qualifying) - There has been a lot of talk about Great Britain’s men this summer and their attempt to reach EuroBasket 2009 in Poland.

But the women are also trying to make their mark on basketball and qualify for next year’s EuroBasket Women in Riga, Latvia.

Their long-term aim, however, is to play at the Olympics when the London Games are staged in 2012 and to take up the spot normally reserved for host nations, FIBA have said they want to be sure the British team will be competitive.

On Saturday, the British women slumped to a 76-68 defeat in Lithuania – their fifth in six games in qualifying Group A.

That loss, coupled with Germany’s upset of Ukraine, means the winner of Britain’s game with the Germans on Wednesday will determine which team goes to the Additional Qualifying Tournament for Riga.

The loser of Wednesday’s game in Cardiff will have to compete in the relegation round.

The Brits won the first encounter between the sides in Germany.

Britain coach Mark Clark expected the qualifying campaign to be difficult and he preferred to focus on the positives from Saturday’s defeat to Lithuania.

"That was a much improved performance by us,” he said.

“Lithuania is probably the best team in the group, so I'm glad we kept fighting for two quarters.

“In the third quarter, we struggled on offense which made the difference.”

Britain were outscored 20-6 in the third quarter.

Rutenis Paulauskas, the Lithuania coach, had words of encouragement for the British women.

“Great Britain, despite of all the stereotypes, is a very strong team which has made great progress,” he said.

Germany won their game against Ukraine, 74-65.

Dorothea Richter of Germany said: “We finally made it! This was a total win by the team as we played and fought together.

“Hopefully this will give us a lift for the important game in Cardiff on Wednesday."

In Group B, Turkey and Poland clinched spots in Latvia at the weekend.

Turkey won 76-42 over Finland to improve to 5-1 alongside Poland.

Italy won 75-49 over Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Azzurre are contending for the best third-place team spot that will advance to the final round.

In Group C, France needed overtime but finally saw off hosts Hungary 68-64 to seal their progression to Latvia.

“I'm happy because we've qualified (for EuroBasket Women 2009),” said France coach Pierre Vincent.

“Now we will concentrate on preparing for the future. My players are playing well.

“Next week, we'll go to Romania to win."

Slovakia were 83-67 winners at Romania to move into second place at 4-3 while Hungary are now third at 3-3.

Serbia won for the second time in four games by beating previously undefeated Greece 64-61 in Group D.

Also at 2-2 are Belgium, who rolled to an 87-60 triumph over Bulgaria (1-3).


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