GB women look to bounce back after EuroBasket qualifier defeat

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GB women look to bounce back after EuroBasket qualifier defeat
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By Megan Armitage at the National Basketball Performance Centre

Head coach Chema Buceta brushed aside concerns about his ageing squad after GB fell 73-66 to Greece at their first EuroBasket 2023 qualifier in Manchester.

The Brits showed resilience throughout the contest with their Group G rivals but were outmatched by the more experienced Greek side.

WNBA veteran Karlie Samuelson led the scoring for GB with 14 points, while London Lions’ Shanice Beckford-Norton put up 12 on her senior debut.

“Greece have been together for a long time with very experienced players in the clubs and also as a national team,” said Buceta.

“That was an important difference, the level of experience as a team.

“We have some new players on the team with no match experience at this level and this is something that we will have to improve in the future by playing more games.

“Now we have to beat Estonia, this is our main goal now and then we will have one year to build the players and build the team.”

The Brits, who narrowly missed out on a 2021 berth, were hoping to send a message of intent as they began their new campaign.

London Lions guard Holly Winterburn was quick to get her debut senior points after a rocket from Samuelson led to the uncapped 21-year-old scoring a two-pointer on eight minutes.

A stronger second quarter saw GB outscore Greece 18-14, but crucial points from Beckford-Norton and a jump shot at the buzzer from Samuelson were not enough to push Britain ahead and the 2019 semi-finalists trailed 33-34 at half-time.

With an early storm in the third, the home side momentarily took the lead before quickly slipping again to a near ten-point deficit as Greece’s Artemis Spanou dominated.

“They just tried to play calmer after the break, because we began nervous, which is normal for players who were playing for the first time on the national team,” said Buceta of his debutants.

“When we were calmer, we were able to get there and it is a pity because there was a moment where we could have taken advantage, but we didn’t, we made some mistakes.”

GB’s veterans staged a fourth-quarter rally, captain Chantelle Handy narrowing the deficit through a pair of three-pointers, but was unable to pull her squad ahead before the buzzer.

London 2012 Olympic stars Azania Stewart, 32, and Rachael Vanderwal, 38, combined for 50:26 minutes and Buceta was adamant that the veterans were on top form, despite a truncated camp.

He added: “This is the reality of the system, we have to put a team together in three or four days.

“This is why it’s important to use all the gaps that we have to prepare.

“Age is not a problem, if the players are in a good shape and also mentally to play and be motivated and I think that both of them did a great job coming back to the team because it is difficult for them.”

GB next face Estonia in Tallin on Sunday.

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