Azania Stewart battles hard for GB, earning a double-double
20 November 2016, 12:00 am ::
By British Basketball
Brave Britain fall in Italy despite gutsy display
Great Britain's senior women scrapped their hearts out but couldn't find a way through implacable Italy in Lucca, suffering a 71-52 defeat.
The Group C loss means GB will not achieve a fourth successive qualification for EuroBasket Women 2017, despite a final game to come against Albania on Wednesday.
Azania Stewart led the way on the scoresheet, with a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Chantelle Handy added 13 points of her own.
The game was a contrast in approaches. GB were determined to use the physicality of Stewart and Temi Fagbenle in the paint, while their Italian hosts were quick to move the ball and proved dangerous on the perimeter.
Despite a passionate home crowd of just over 1,000, GB were far from daunted by the do-or-die encounter and stayed in the hunt. Stewart top scored with six points in the opening quarter, as GB trailed by the five points, 20-15.
Britain were clearly sharper than in last year's 12 point defeat to the Italians in Manchester, but the home team had improved themselves with sharper movement, zipping the ball across the court with relish.
Italy's defence was at times suffocating and while GB were certainly on the end of some rough calls from the officials, being 36-23 down at the half-time interval didn't leave them out of the game entirely. Stewart again leading the way for the visitors with 10 points, while also contributing 4 first half rebounds.
The GB fightback in the third quarter began with Chantelle Handy scoring some typically pugnacious long range efforts from the corner. Despite being closely watched, the equally feisty Jo Leedham created space selflessly for others, while Savannah Wilkinson produced an interesting - and promising - few minutes for one so young.
Reducing the deficit to just six points with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter was only a taste of what Britain's efforts merited. But the Italy lead proved even more stubborn than they did, with a margin of 13 left to make up in the final quarter.
The closest in the last ten minutes they could get was 9 points, but a vociferous home crowd would celebrate Italy's victory and qualification for EuroBasket Women 2017.
71-52 was the final score, which did not reflect the spirit of the British team, who must now face Albania on Wednesday afternoon to complete their qualification campaign.