09 Dec 14
EuroBasket Women 2015 promises to be a fascinating battle for the Great Britain senior women as they bid to realise their Olympic 2016 dream.
Damian Jennings' side, who were led by a game-high 13 points from guard Jo Leedham, now move on to take on Belarus, Croatia and the Czech Republic as they look for their first-ever quarter-final spot.
GB face the Czechs in the opening game of the second round in La-Roche-Sur-Yon on Wednesday.
Having taken on the tournament favourites on their home soil, GB feel ready to chase more wins, Jennings commented: "It's a tough situation and a pressured environment but I thought the girls coped really well and stepped up.
"We're still learning to add weight to some of the good things we do at the defensive end. There are great lessons to be had when you're facing a team that is the best in Europe at the moment and one of the best in the world."
An 8-0 run saw the hosts move 15-6 clear in the first quarter, propelled by their world-class front line. However, GB responded with eight straight points of their own as a three-pointer from Leedham cut the gap to 17-6.
Valeriane Ayayi sparked a flurry of 11 consecutive points that moved France's advantage into double figures as their guests were held scoreless for over five minutes.
Down 33-22 at half-time, GB had to try to overcome foul trouble and the sheer physicality of the 2009 European Champions. Despite a strong contribution from some of Jennings' younger players, they could not fight back.
A 6-0 burst early in the third pushed France further in front, roared on by a capacity crowd at the Arena Loire. Although Azania Stewart converted GB's first free throws of the game, another run of six increased the margin to 49-32.
The depth of the home team was a huge asset and they maintained their dominance, eventually easing 34 clear after a late 25-5 burst, with Isabelle Yacoubou heading their charge with 11 points.
"It was always going to be a tough match-up for us," said Leedham. "France are a great team. They take one player off and they bring on someone else with similar qualities, but I think we fought hard."
The Czech Republic are next up for GB and with a path open to the last eight, Jennings is setting his sights high, he commented: "We know the Czechs and the Croatians well. We've already started our preparations for them so we'll see what we can do. Our target is going to be two wins. We want to be in the next round."
Serbia claimed the other qualifying spot in Group C, coming third by beating Latvia 62-56.