GB women and wheelchair basketball stars excel on European stage

Great Britain’s female basketballers have enjoyed a stellar weekend in European tournaments.

Rachael Vanderwal: Scored 11 points for GB women in the bronze-medal defeat to Serbia. (Picture: Getty Images)

Chema Buceta’s GB women’s side had become the first British team, male or female, to reach the last eight of the sport’s European championships when they beat Montenegro in a play-off and then went on to edge past Hungary last week.

But in the last four, the strength of their well-resourced rivals finally told with Buceta’s side going down 63-56 to France in the semi-finals of the Women’s EuroBasket. France guard Marine Johannes was the game’s top scorer with 20 points, while Britain’s Rachel Vanderwal made 12.

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Then yesterday, the bronze medal eluded them as they were beaten 81-55 by hosts Serbia.

Nevertheless, fourth is the best placing by a British team – for whom Sheffield Hatters coach Vanessa Ellis is part of the coaching set-up – at a European Championship.

Centre Temi Fagbenle returned to her best, scoring 23 points while guard Vanderwal added 11.

“Everyone’s tired at this stage,” said Vanderwal.

“It’s such a hard tournament –every game takes everything out of you and it showed today. But it’s no excuse.”

Buceta added: “If we want to be one of the top teams at this level, we have to be able to play seven games in 11 days,” said Buceta.

“But I think we have to see the big picture here – and that is that we are talking about qualifying tournaments for the Olympic Games.”

And over in Rotterdam, the women’s wheelchair basketball team went two better, winning silver at their European Championships.

The team, which is based at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport and include’s Wakefield’s Sophie Carrigill and Castleford’s Leah Evans, were beaten 65-52 by hosts the Netherlands.

The previous day, the GB women defeated Germany in the semi-final.

The Netherlands, though, are proving Britain’s nemesis after they lost to the same nation in last year’s world championship final.