London 2012: Haringey Olympic basketball duo are unable to shock Australia
Women’s basketball - Group B: Australia 74 Great Britain 58
Haringey duo Azania Stewart and Temi Fagbenle starred as Team GB’s women started their campaign with a gutsy 16-point defeat against Australia.
Facing a nation who have won the silver medal at the last three Olympics, GB were rarely close enough to cause an upset, but they refused to be left behind and stubbornly remained within 20 points of the Aussies throughout their opening Group B fixture.
Stewart, who attended Alexnadra Park School in Muswell Hill and began her sporting career with Haringey Angels, scored eight points while Fagbenle, who has also played for Haringey, netted four – but it wasn’t enough for plucky GB.
Britain, who must finish in the top four out of the six teams in Group B to qualify for the quarter-finals, will be in action again on Monday night against Canada.
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Fagbenle contested the tip-off but Team GB made the worst possible start, going behind inside seven seconds, conceding a foul through Stewart and losing Stef Collins to a twisted ankle all in the very first play.
Australia netted one of their two free throws to take a 3-0 lead but GB hit back to take a 7-6 lead after four minutes.
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Rattled by a relatively poor start, Australia called a time-out and came out of the blocks quickly, going 11-7 up – but four successful GB penalties in succession tied the scores.
That was as good as it got for the hosts, who never achieved parity again – but they resolutely resisted the tourists’ attempts to break away and ease to victory in comfort. Led by their star Lauren Jackson, Australia racked up 13 unanswered points to go 29-11 up in the second quarter, but Jo Leedham and Julie Page narrowed the gap to 31-17, and Stewart combined with Fagbenle to draw a foul and earn two free throws – which she converted.
Jackson continued to underline her talent, but Stewart and Page hit back – and Natalie Stafford netted a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to leave GB in contention at 39-26.
The lethal Jackson picked up where she had left off after the interval, but Leedham raced through the court to score a lay-up, and Stewart set up Stafford for a score before Fagbenle and Stafford cut the gap down to 11 points at 45-34.
Rachael VanderWal, Stafford and Page registered to maintain that gap as the end of the third quarter approached and, although Australia scored seven points in succession to go 60-42 ahead, GB still refused to give in.
Kimberley Butler and Vanderwal reduced the arrrears to 15 points at 62-47, and Fagbenle and Stewart both scored after coming off the bench to maintain that gap, before another Stewart score cut the deficit to 13 points
Leedham, Vanderwal and Butler all scored to maintain that margin with two minutes to play, but a late surge from Australia saw them run out 74-57 winners.