Basketball: Czech mate for Steph and Lauren at Euros

Steph Gandy, right, in action against the Czech Republic at EuroBasket. Pic: Mansoor Ahmed.
Steph Gandy, right, in action against the Czech Republic at EuroBasket. Pic: Mansoor Ahmed.
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Sheffield Hatters Steph Gandy and her Great Britain teammates were helpless against a barrage of three-pointers from the Czech Republic at EuroBasket in France today.

The Czechs eventually won 66-55 in their second round group game. Gandy and Hatters guard Lauren Thomas-Johnson are back in action Friday afternoon in Mouilleron-le-captif against Belarus.

Jo Leedham top scored for GB with 20 points but it wasn’t enough as the 2010 FIBA World Championship finalist and world ranked fourth team sealed their first second round victory.

GB head coach, Damian Jennings, believes his side is still capable of advancing into the quarter-finals, he said: “We have two more opportunities in this second round. We are a young basketball nation and we actually want to get very far so we are looking forward to the next two games.

“This game was one that had pockets of our brand of basketball and pockets where it didn’t. So we need to reflect on how we get 40 minutes of the type of basketball that’s going to keep us in.”

Leedham’s early three-pointer capped a promising start from Great Britain but the Czechs then took control to pull ahead for good late in the opening period.

Although GB forward Chantelle Handy sparked an 8-2 run that cut the gap to 25-23, it was as close as her team would come again.

Michaela Zrustova, who paced the Czechs with 20 points, converted from long range to cap a 7-0 run which pushed her side’s lead to 32-23 at half-time.

Despite the challenges from the size and relentless defence from their opponents, GB maintained their pursuit and won the rebounding battle in the game 45-40.

Kim Butler hit back-to-back scores to slice the deficit to 39-34 in the third, with Hatters guard Thomas-Johnson providing a lift off the bench. However threes from Katerina Elhotova and Katerina Bartonova ignited an 8-0 spurt which widened the Czech lead to 47-36 heading into the fourth period.

Although Butler and Leedham tried to spark one more rally, the Czechs held them at bay to all but assure themselves of a place in the quarter-finals.

Butler, who added 12 points and five rebounds, still remains hopeful of making the next round despite the Czech’s victory, said: “We knew they had great shooters and size inside. Getting down nine at half-time and fighting our way back was tough and it’s a disappointing loss.

“But, we can take good things from this game. We have the upmost respect for them.

“We had spurts of greatness, finding the open person with great shots, and getting rebounds.

“If we get more of that, and hold on for 38-40 minutes, we’ll be up at that next level. I’m looking forward to the next game.”