GB women's basketball head coach Chema Buceta believes his side have a bright future ahead despite missing out on their Tokyo dream as they lost 79-69 to Spain in their Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, writes Bradley West.
It was a case of do or die for GB on Sunday, having already lost their two previous games to China and South Korea in the competition, as they knew they had to beat European champions Spain to qualify for the Games this summer.
And, at least for the opening period, Buceta’s team were neck and neck with the Spanish - Temi Fagbenle scoring 21 points throughout the contest as GB trailed by only two points after the first quarter.
But, Spain grew in quality and took advantage of missed opportunities from the British side to eventually win by ten points.
“We are together all the time despite what happened and of course we are upset about this result but we have to be happy with the experience we’ve gained,” Buceta said.
“I have to thank everybody that has been involved with the team, and the fans back home, they have been very supportive.
“We have to look to the future, this team has proven it is possible that they can do great things.
“We have to be ambitious and then maybe next time we’re at this table we will be celebrating going to an Olympic Games.
“It has been a great privilege to work with these girls, the atmosphere was always great and they were always ambitious.”
The British team started slowly but Fagbenle’s six points and four from Chantelle Handy reduced the gap to two at 18-16 behind after the first quarter.
At the start of the second quarter, Spain scored four straight points without answer thanks to scores from Marta Xargay and Queralt Casas but once more the deficit was reduced to two – this time after a Johannah Leedham-Warner layup.
However, Spain were efficient on the two pointers and they took a 40-30 lead into half-time before further extending their gap to 11 points with just one quarter remaining.
And, despite the fourth quarter beginning promisingly for GB, it never looked like being enough as Spain’s victory meant South Korea claimed third place in Britain’s group and the ticket to Tokyo.