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GB go out of Eurobasket and lose out 62-59 against Russia
Standard Life GB women again went agonisingly close to a victory against a major world power in basketball before losing 62-59 against Russia this afternoon.
Against a nation who are ranked second in the world and had started the tournament as one of the favourites having reached the last five EuroBasket finals, Britain led by as many as 15 points in the first half. GB also held a ten point lead going into the final five minutes of the game before Russia went on a phenomenal 17-2 run to seal the victory.
Britain will now return home, but can take immense pride in their often excellent performances against top class European sides during their first-ever EuroBasket finals.
Standard Life GB player, Kim Butler led the way with 15 points and six rebounds, dominating the game in the first period, while Natalie Stafford was perfect in her ten trips to the free-throw line to finish with 14 points and three steals. Jo Leedham finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Julie Page also had eight rebounds to go with her seven points.
Russia were led by 16 points from Elena Danilochkina, but despite comfortably winning the rebound battle 53-37, they were made to fight all the way by some tenacious GB defending.
GB centre, Azania Stewart admitted that it was frustrating to lose another close game, but also looked on the positive side: “I guess it’s a learning curve but we all made crucial mistakes. It would have been nice to end the tournament with a win. We needed to keep making plays in the fourth period, and we couldn’t quite get it down at the crucial time.
“But, we’ve proved that we don’t give up. We frustrated them and we didn’t go down without a fight.”
GB coach Tom Maher was understandably frustrated with the loss: “It was disappointing, but it was what it was, we didn’t do enough to win. We don’t have the experience and the poise to win games like this down the stretch, but we’ll only get that by playing in these type of games.
“When you’re totally outmatched in the paint, but are eight up with four to play, that has to be a positive. But from there on, we couldn’t get a decent shot up.”
With Britain now going home, Maher remained positive about their performances for the whole tournament: “I’m proud of the team, and we’d have taken this coming into the championships. But we coughed up two games we should have won, against Lithuania and Russia, and we need to learn from that before the Olympics next year.”
GB won the tip, but after both teams missed shots it was Maria Stepanova who opened the scoring, though she missed the subsequent free-throw after being fouled by Chantelle Handy.
Butler levelled things at the foul line and put GB 5-4 up with a three point play and forced Stepanova to go to the bench on two fouls with just over two minutes gone.
Page kept GB ahead and Butler took her total to seven as GB moved into a 9-6 lead with 5:35 on the clock.
Butler’s return to the game after a short break saw her put GB up by five with Stafford adding two free-throws to put GB 13-6 ahead after a Russia timeout.
Leedham extended the run to 10-0 before hitting a three-pointer to make it 18-6. Irina Osipova finally broke the run at the foul line but Handy restored the 12 point margin at the first break.
Excellent defence saw GB force a shot clock violation to start the second period before Handy collected an offensive rebound to increase their lead to 14 points.
Three Leedham points saw that lead grow to 15 but Russia scored eight straight points as Britain went on a five minute scoring slump with Butler sitting on the bench with her third foul.
Page finally ended the drought to make it 27-17 with 2:55 remaining in the half, but the Russians hit the final five points to cut the GB lead to 27-22 going into the locker room.
Russia started the second half with a 6-0 run to regain the lead for the first time since early in the first period, but scores from Stef Collins and Natalie Stafford tied things at 33 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Butler and Stewart ensured that GB were up by one going into the final three minutes, and the game was tied at 41 with 94 seconds remaining. Leedham sunk a three pointer to put GB back up, 44-41 before Stafford was sent to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul by Ilona Korstin, she hit both shots before missing a jump shot and Svetlana Abrosimova cut GB’s lead to 46-43 at the final break.
Danilochkina hit a single free-throw to open the fourth period scoring before Russia was called for a technical foul, allowing Stafford to put Britain 51-44 ahead with 7:23 on the clock.
Stewart picked up her fourth foul, permitting Stepanova to trim a point off the lead but Butler hit a pair at the foul line to make it 53-45.
Russia called a time-out with 5:33 on the clock, but the break made no difference as Butler took her tally to 15 with a pair at the line and gave GB a double digit lead again.
Seven straight points capped by a lay-up from veteran Stepanova forced a timeout by Maher as his side’s lead was cut to 55-52 with 3:20 on the clock.
Danilochkina hit a long two out of the break but Stafford broke the run, before Rachael Vanderwal sent Abrosimova to the line where she hit one of two to level things at 57 going into the last minute.
Danilochkina was left open at an inbound with 48 seconds on the clock, and she hit a three-pointer to put Russia 60-57 ahead.
Vanderwal missed a three point shot after Maher’s timeout before Abrosimova looked to wrap up the game with a jump shot to put Russia ahead by five points.
Korstin then threw a needless elbow at Stafford and was ejected from the game with 1.4 seconds on the clock.
Stafford made both her free-throws from the line, but the following ball was thrown out of bounds as GB struggled to get a three-point shot off and Russia closed the game out.