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.
GB, led by a game-high 16 points from Jo Leedham, matched their experienced Group F rivals until the final quarter, threatening an upset until a late 12-2 run saw off their challenge.
"It's a tough loss for us," said Leedham. "We didn't play solidly enough. They just out-hustled us and won the possession game and worked harder than us. When we're not getting those hustle plays, that minimises our chances of winning because we're a blue collar team. "
Faced with the powerful front line of Belarus, Britain did not back down building an early 8-2 lead as they chased a third win of this tournament.
However, Yelena Leuchanka, regarded as one of the premier centres in world basketball, inspired a run of 11 straight points which took Belarus in front for the first time before a three from Stef Collins inspired a 7-0 response that put her side ahead again.
It then became a game of ebbs and flows. A 13-2 burst helped send Belarus 34-28 in front at half-time but Chantelle Handy and Kim Butler ignited another GB response.
Handy, who will play next season at French club Nantes, factored heavily as Jennings' side held Belarus without a score for six minutes while converting 12 unanswered points to go 44-38 in front.
But GB could not hold on after a three-pointer from Marina Kress began a 9-0 flurry that put Belarus in front and another three from Katsiaryna Snytsina with six minutes remaining pushed her side ahead for good as a 12-2 burst left GB behind.
Head coach Jennings commented: "We didn't commit to our brand of basketball for 40 minutes. When we did in spells we found some joy. To hold them to nine points in the third quarter, then to 15-15 in the first quarter, to go up at the start, it's disappointing to be on a rollercoaster.
"But we know that what we do puts us into situations in games where it tends to be five or six points in it. We have to play for 40 minutes and today we didn't."
The result put Belarus into the quarter-finals as well as the Czech Republic, leaving GB and Serbia in the frame for the fourth and final qualifying berth out of Group F on Sunday.
"We've got one more game on Sunday and we really have to show our brand of basketball," Leedham added.
Earlier on Friday in Group F, Croatia's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals were ended when they lost 77-64 to Serbia. Friday evening's late game pits France against the Czech Republic.