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GB defeated in Eurobasket debut
The Standard Life GB women found European power-house Belarus too tough in their opening EuroBasket 2011 game as they went down 55-40 in Bydgoszcz today.
Tom Maher's side made a great defensive effort to keep Belarus' scoring low but they struggled with their shooting as last season's World Championship semi-finalists opened the competition in Poland with a victory. GB rebounded well both offensively and defensively, recording 12 and 26 respectively, enabling them to produce a strong turnover performance.
Kim Butler led GB with eight points, six boards and two assists, Azania Stewart added seven points and four rebounds, and Julie Page made four points, four rebounds and an assist. While Belarus were led by Katsiaryna Snytsina and Anastasiya Verameyenka with ten points apiece.
The Belarusians won the tip but it was Chantelle Handy, on her way to a six point game, who hit a long range jumper to open the scoring - answered by a Natallia Marchanka trey to put Belarus in the lead.
Neither side troubled the scorers for four minutes, but back-to-back Jo Leedham scores meant that the game was tied at eight with three first period minutes remaining.
A lovely Leedham assist to Azania Stewart kept GB on level terms, but Natallia Anufryienka converted Belarus' third three point play of the period before a single Stewart free-throw on an intentional foul cut the deficit to 14-11 at the first break.
Belarus opened the second period with a 10-2 run, and GB saw Stef Collins collect her third foul forcing Maher into a timeout with 4:49 on the clock and Britain trailing 24-13.
A trey from Anufryienka made it a 14-point game before Stewart finally ended the drought with a put-back from Natalie Stafford's missed shot.
Stewart and Page kept GB in touch at the foul line, before Butler hit GB's first field goal for more than eight minutes to make the half-time deficit 31-20.
Page opened the second half scoring after 107 seconds with a single free-throw before Stafford hit a jumper to keep it at a 12 point game.
Five unanswered points saw Belarus' lead grow to 45-27 forcing a GB timeout with 1:43 in the third period remaining. Lauren Thomas-Johnson hit one of two foul shots out of the break and the teams went into the final period with GB trailing 45-28.
Butler opened the GB final stanza scoring but Verameyenka kept up the Berlarus onslaught and a pair of free throws from Tatsanian Likhtarovich made it a 21 point game with under seven minutes remaining to effectively end it as a contest.
Standard Life GB women head coach Tom Maher remained positive and was pleased with his team's performance: "I can't be upset because we worked hard and that is the important thing. We've never played against sides of this level before certainly not in official competition, so I'm happy with our performance. We tried hard but we're not yet at the level where we can expect to beat teams at Belarus' level yet."
Centre Julie Page was part of a GB defence which held the World Championship semi-finalists to 33 percent floor shooting, and forced them into 22 turnovers, and the veteran was pleased with their performance: "It was our first major finals game in Europe for GB and we worked really hard and showed people that we can play at this level. We talked before the game about playing tough defence, and I think we did that; we had energy and worked as a team to help each other out.
"We forced them into 22 turnovers which is encouraging, and we just need to keep on working hard."
Belarus player Yelena Leuchanka had praised for Team GB: "They gave us a good game today, and we can't be happy with those 22 turnovers - that is unacceptable."
Britain return to action on Sunday evening when they face World Championship silver medalists Czech Republic at 19.30 BST.