Temi Fagbenle led Great Britain’s scoring with 26 points
Great Britain’s women opened their Olympic qualifying campaign with an 86-76 defeat against China in Belgrade.
GB led 46-43 at half-time in Serbia but struggled to score in the second half after China adjusted defensively, allowing just 30 second-half points.
Temi Fagbenle led Britain’s scoring with 26 points and Johannah Leedham-Warner added 19.
GB’s next game is against South Korea on Saturday and their final qualifier comes against Spain on Sunday.
The team are looking to qualify outright for the Olympics for the first time, having played as hosts in 2012. The top three teams in the Belgrade tournament will qualify for Tokyo.
GB started confidently with Fagbenle quickly into her scoring rhythm and although China stayed in front, three three-pointers in the space of two minutes from Chantelle Handy in a 14-4 burst gave GB a 24-19 advantage over the world number eight team.
In the second quarter, China closed down the three-point shot for GB but Leedham-Warner took on the drive and she and Fagbenle contributed 16 of GB’s 20 second-quarter points as they reached half-time with a 46-43 lead.
The third quarter saw GB struggling to score as China closed down offensive rebounding opportunities and Fagbenle sat out for six minutes. The 6ft 7in height of China’s Han Xu, who scored 16 points, became a factor as China began to dominate.
Fagbenle returned for the last 10 minutes and scored 10 points in a row for GB, then combined with Cheridene Green for three more. With three minutes 17 seconds remaining, GB trailed by just five points.
They then failed to score for two minutes, allowing China to work the clock and secure the win from the free-throw line.
“It’s tough because we came out and played well in the first half,” said Handy. “They adjusted things and got the best of us in the second half and started running the floor.
“We know we can’t dwell on this too much – we have a day off and then we have another game coming up.”
“China stepped it up and we were slow to react and it was difficult for us to get back,” said Leedham-Warner, who will look to the next two games.
“[South Korea] is a must win and we take on every game like that like it’s a final.”
Other result: Spain 83-46 South Korea
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