London 2012: Fagbenle stars for GB but hosts lose thriller to Canada
Women’s basketball - Group B: Canada 73 Great Britain 65
Former Haringey Angels stars Temi Fagbenle and Azania Stewart were involved in a thriller against Canada tonight, with Britain coming from behind to lead with five minutes left – only to lose out in the final moments.
Having lost their opening Group B fixture against Australia on Saturday, Britain trailed for most of this evening’s match as well.
However they stayed in contention throughout with Wood Green’s Stewart and Fagbenle, who both began their basketball careers in north London with Haringey Angels, contributing four points and six points respectively.
Fagbenle was particularly influential, battling hard to consistently win rebounds and secure possession at both ends of the court, as the home nation kept pace with the Canadians.
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Britain even managed to go ahead in the final quarter and seemed to be heading for their first victory in the Olympics – but Canada levelled with five minutes left and went on to win by a highly flattering eight points.
GB initially went 5-2 down but Fagbenle reduced the deficit, and free throws from Julie Page and Jo Leedham put Britain 8-5 ahead.
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The lead switched sides several times with Canada leading 16-13 after eight minutes and, although two penalty shots from Fagbenle left GB just one point down, a last-second three-pointer gave Canada a 19-15 advantage at the end of the first period.
The visitors quickly extended that lead after the restart but Britain fought back, and Fagbenle stole the ball under her own basket before feeding Leedham, who sunk a glorious three-pointer to give Britain a 22-21 lead.
It did not last long and, despite an imperious, towering block from Stewart, Canada went four points up, with Britain spending the rest of the half attempting to stop the tourists from motoring away.
They succeeded in doing so, with Fagbenle stealing possession and feeding Stef Collins, who teed up Leedham for another three-pointer to reduce to deficit to two points midway through the quarter.
Natalie Stafford has two chances to equalise but was unable to find the net, and Canada took advantage to widen the gap again – but Stafford made amends with a three-pointer and another score soon after as GB moved to within a point at 31-30.
The hosts were again unable to find an equaliser though, and Canada netted five unanswered points to take a six-point lead with one minute of the half remaining, requiring another Stafford basket to keep GB in contention at 36-32.
It was a breathless start to the third quarter as the sides traded sublime scores. Jenaya Wade-Fray netted a three-pointer and the Haringey stars combined as Fagbenle set up Stewart – but the four-point gap remained at 43-39.
Canada suddenly forged ahead to go 46-39 up, but a Leedham three-pointer pegged them back and, when the visitors replied with a three-pointer of their own, Britain racked up three scores without reply.
Stafford set up Kim Butler, Stef Collins narrowed the gap further and Butler netted again to leave GB just one point behind at 49-48.
Rattled, Canada responded and pushed their advantage back up to five points, but Stafford set up Page and Anderson then converted a free throw before recording the last score of the period to leave the match in the balance with the Canadians 55-53 up at the final break.
Ninety seconds into the fourth quarter GB were level through Stafford and, although Canada edged back ahead, Page equalised again.
Seconds later Leedham stole the ball and raced away to put Britain ahead, and Page converted two penalty shots to extend the lead to four points at 61-59 with six minutes left.
They held that lead for two minutes, but Canada struck back with three consecutive scores, including a three-pointer, to go 66-61 up.
Fagbenle reduced the deficit to three points with two minutes left, but it was Canada who held their nerve, accelerating away in the final moments to finish eight points up – their biggest winning margin of the match.
Britain, who must finish in the top four of the six teams in Group to qualify for the quarter-finals, will continue their London 2012 campaign on Wednesday against Russia (4.45pm).