After defying all the odds to reach the EuroBasket semi-final, GB Women narrowly missed out on a chance to compete for a Gold or Silver medal, being beaten by France by 63-56.
GB will tomorrow take part in a decider between Spain or Serbia for the tournament’s Bronze medal.
As the game tipped-off, with GB Women’s wheelchair basketball team earlier in the day reaching the final of the European Championship for the first time, it was GB Women’s turn to see if they could continue to make history in the tournament by reaching the EuroBasket final. In their way were France, the fourth best team in the world.
GB looked relaxed from the start and it was the French who took the early time-out as GB went 2-6 up. Misses and turnovers by France after the time-out were punished twice by Rachael Vanderwal to give GB a 2-10 lead. More French misses and a three by Chantelle Handy put GB up by 2-13 before France replied with two points of their own. With less than two minutes left in the quarter, France hit a three to cut GB’s lead to 7-13.
GB went to their bench players and Cheridene Green came up with two points to keep the GB lead. Patient play by France in the dying seconds of the quarter saw Marine Johannès hit a three-point shot to cut the lead to 12-16.
France came off the bench at the start of the second quarter with greater certainty and drive. Johannès again got back on the scoresheet to cut the GB lead to one point. Suddenly it was GB making the errors as France took the lead through Endene Miyem. But GB weathered the storm – Green’s hustle in the paint brought her and the team another two points (17-20) to stay just in front.
The score, however, was soon tied at 23 points apiece, before an unsportsmanlike foul on Vanderwal allowed France to take a two-point lead from the free throw line. But GB didn’t let it rattle them. Samuelson and Vanderwal hit back-to-back threes to put GB back in the lead, and France went to the bench to regroup, down by 25-31.
GB were pushing France all the way, but it was clear that the French were not going to go down without a fight. Monakana hit a three point shot off the bench for GB and Johannès responded for France to tie the game at 34-34 at the end of the half.
France came out at the start of the third with an appetite for eating up rebounds and they quickly gained a six point lead (40-34). Jo Leedham-Warner briefly cut their lead to two as GB looked to restore their first-half rhythm, but France kept their cool and continued to find their way to the basket.
Good movement by France found Bria Hartley open for three and GB needed to talk it over, nine points off the pace (47-38). Handy responded to the team talk with a three of her own, but France refused to blink and the third period ended with France up by 52-46.
With Fagbenle unable to reach the scoring heroics of previous games, Vanderwal getting into foul trouble and GB’s free-throw accuracy deserting them, France were able to do enough to stay in front throughout the fourth quarter. It was the customary grit of Leedham-Warner that briefly reduced the French lead to three points. Even as decisions went against GB in the final minutes, it was Leedham-Warner who again kept the French lead manageable.
In the end, the mountain proved just a little too high and GB picked up only their second defeat of what has proved to be an extraordinary tournament.
Having played a huge part now in helping to put GB basketball in the European spotlight, they now have a second chance to bring home a well-deserved medal in tomorrow’s play-off game.