British women miss out on basketball medal

Battling defeat against Germans ends hopes

Great Britain’s hopes of a women’s Wheelchair Basketball medal ended with an 11-point defeat to Germany in the North Greenwich Arena last night.

Despite a battling performance, in which the GB women matched the Beijing silver medallists for all but the last five minutes of a hard-fought quarter-final, it is Germany who will meet the Netherlands in the semi-finals tomorrow (Thursday).

A tearful co-captain Clare Strange said the team had given everything.

“We missed some opportunities but it was a great performance,” she said. “We couldn’t have put any more out there.”

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Britain produced their best performance of the Games so far, but were again found wanting in what coach Garry Peel calls “the end game” as Germany came from three points down in the last quarter to win 55-44.

“Overall it was a great performance,” said Peel. “It’s just a shame we didn’t finish our lay-ups. If we’d have put them away we’d have finished this game.

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“We always know if it’s Germany we can physically match them, and we did it again. We stopped them and we stopped them. We just didn’t quite do it because we missed the shots, we just missed the shots.

“The crowd really got behind the team and the girls lifted and really enjoyed the game. They are really disappointed and I’m disappointed for them because they’ve really worked hard for this tournament. But we’ve got a team for the future, it’s just a shame we’re not in that semi-final.”

Britain, who include Londoners Helen Turner and Sarah McPhee, now play China in their crossover classification match still aiming to improve on their eighth place in Beijing.

After finishing sixth at the 2010 World Championships, they will now aim for fifth with growing confidence.

“It’s not gone as well as we wanted because we haven’t performed as well as we wanted, but we’re getting better as it goes on and we’re really going to fight for that fifth spot,” said Peel.

Britain recovered from heavy defeats in their first two games at London 2012, performing well to defeat Brazil, and came into the quarter-final in optimistic mood. But Germany were always going to be tough opponents having won group B with a 100 per cent record.

It was the Germans who started strongest, their stout defence forcing Britain into hasty shots. But that pattern soon altered as the GB side, driven on by Helen Freeman, came back from a four-point deficit to take a 12-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Germans knew they were in a game. But the world silver medallists soon responded, opening spaces in the British defence as forward Annika Zeyen found her range and began to score with increasing ease.

Her presence was telling as Germany won the second quarter 14-9 to take a one-point lead into the half-time break, 22-21.

Britain came out for the second half in determined mood, however, and Freeman soon levelled the scores. The two sides traded blows through a tight third quarter before the Germans pulled ahead, at one point leading by seven.

Britain had no intention of going down easily, however, and clawed their way back into the game, reducing the deficit to one point with 10 minutes left to play.

The see-saw battle continued into the final period as first GB established a lead, then the Germans. With little over five minutes remaining Peels side led by three, but the Germans’ resolute defence and Zeyen’s deadly shooting saw them through as the increasingly anxious Britons missed chance after chance.

With the score at 51-44 Peel called one last time out to rally his team. But it was too late, and the Germans closed out the game, 55-44.

Zeyen finished with 25 points, while Helen Freeman was Britain’s top scorer with 19.

“It’s obviously really gutting to lose in the end, but we gave them a good fight,” said the 22 year old Freeman. “They are the Beijing silver medallists, and they been undefeated so far, and we’ve just played them closer than any team has.

“We still made errors so we’ve still got more to come for the rest of the tournament and we’re definitely going for fifth now.

“You can’t say that losing a medal hope is not disappointing, it absolutely is, but we’ve got to keep our heads high, we’ve got a lot to be proud of, and get ready for our next game.

“Everyone put everything they could in, and ultimately Germany just pipped it at the end, but we gave it our all. We held in there and kept fighting all the way. We just couldn’t hang on for long enough.”

Caroline Mclean added: “It was a great game, we gave a really good fight but unfortunately it wasn’t our day. We knew what we had to do and we just lost concentration a few times and just couldn’t do it.

“We got down a bit and we did what we were told to do, which was good, but we just couldn’t stop number eight.

“We’re kind of repeating history because we played Japan in Beijing and they were top of their pool and we lost in the final couple of minutes, so I’m gutted it happened again I thought it might be our day today but unfortunately not.

“I think we can pick ourselves up. We didn’t have a great game the first three games and we managed to pick ourselves up a give a good fight the last two games, so we really, really need to give a good performance on the next game.”

GB’s men play Turkey in their quarter-final today (Wednesday, 3.15pm).

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