Commonwealth Games 2018: England women delighted with basketball silver
PUBLISHED: 18:00 14 April 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
That England could lose the final by 44 points to Australia and emerge from their post-game huddle with beaming smiles said everything about their silver medal in the Commonwealth Games women’s basketball.
While the hosts celebrated a routine gold after a 99-55 win, England’s players enjoyed the biggest nights of their careers.
A number of these players turned out for Great Britain in the London Olympics six years ago, but all agreed this was the more significant achievement.
“This is the top,” said Azania Stewart, a stalwart on the Great Britain team, who led England on the night with 13 points.
“For me, I’m getting ready to retire and to have a silver medal in my trophy cabinet is a beautiful thing. To have it with these girls and to keep pushing for England basketball, I’m really excited.
“Ten years, I’m pretty much a veteran with Great Britain but I’ve never made it to a finals or a semi-finals. For me, this is the best.”
England, with Barking Abbey alumni Melita Emanuel-Carr in their side, knew before tip-off what to expect from world-class opposition, who beat them 118-55 in pool play.
Their task was theoretically made easier with six minutes left in the second period when Australia’s star centre Liz Cambage was ejected for two unsportsmanlike fouls, but, with the hosts already leading 32-18, the incident only energised a partisan crowd.
A 20-4 Australia run in the third period confirmed the inevitable, but England could be proud of their battling display.
“Our defence has been huge in the tournament, we really came together,” said Rachael Vanderwal. “Yeah, you look at the scoreline but Australia are a great team. We played our hearts out. We never gave up.”
None of these England players will forget their trip to the Gold Coast, but it will always have a special place in the heart of point guard Georgia Jones, who became engaged to England men’s forward Jamell Anderson when he proposed after a pool game in Townsville last Sunday.
“I feel very lucky right now,” the 28-year-old said. “This is the best trip of my life. I can’t believe it. I’ll remember it forever.”
While players can celebrate their individual and collective achievements, they hope the medal has a greater significance set against the backdrop of Great Britain’s funding battle at home.
Indeed, British teams here might not yet be done as Scotland’s men – on the wrong end of a 103-46 semi-final hiding against Australia on Saturday – will hope to upset Canada for bronze on Sunday.
“This is huge for British basketball,” Vanderwal said. “We’ve shown we can compete with the best in the world.”