Emma Meesseman’s Belgian team, the Cats, are now 2-0 in EuroBasket Women. And evidently, they took the challenge of the vaunted Russian national team very seriously.
This was the second of three games for the Belgians in group play. The win all but secured their spot in the quarterfinals. Their final game against Latvia is on Monday.
For context, Russia is ranked 11 in the world in 2016. Belgium is not ranked at all!
And somehow, the Belgians are very close to securing a berth in next year’s World Cup in Spain! But for now:
This is a massive upset
We got our 2nd WIN of #EuroBasketWomen2017 after overtime against Russia #basketbelgium We did it!! pic.twitter.com/SNuWuHhJek— Belgian Cats (@TheBelgianCats) June 17, 2017
Belgium took it FAR more seriously than I thought they would, considering this was the second of two back-to-backs. Should they rest players for an easier team on Monday? Maybe.
No such luck for Russia. Coach Philip Mestdagh, who happens to be the father of two of the national team’s players, Kim and Hanne, carved out the heart of a much more ‘talented’ Russian squad, early and often.
The score absolutely does not tell the story of how a team from Belgium with ZERO naturalized players, took down the Group D Goliath in Prague. Epiphanny Prince is naturalized for Russia so that is seen as a comfortable advantage, from space.
The Cats absolutely sprinted out of the gate. They ended the 1Q up 29-15. The Russians were stunned. Belgium, with Meesseman going 7/7 and rocking 16 points in the first half, was the tipping point for huge runs by the Cats.
Hussle and Harassment
For all the times that I have said out loud that Meesseman’s perimeter defense is outstanding, imagine a whole team of pesky, hard-working, out-guessing-them, teammates. That is exactly what Meesse has with her Belgian squad.
They managed to hold Maria Vadeeva to 16 points and 14 rebounds. She is 18 years old and she could have gone Jonquel Jones bad, a 20/20 night. She already has the keys to the Russian franchise. Because she has earned it.*
Much like Emma Meesseman for Belgium. They were actually teammates for 2 years on Sparta&K, so they know each other well.
*They both have EuroLeague Women championships under their belts as youngsters.
But Meesse won this battle, one of many to come.
The Cats managed 10 turnovers and 10 steals. Russia committed 18 turnovers and seven steals. #Hussle
And then there was Ann Wauters playing like a kid!
.@AnnWauters12 says "NOT IN MY HOUSE" ! @TheBelgianCats #EuroBasketWomen2017— FIBA (@FIBA) June 17, 2017
Even when the shots stopped falling, and they did for Belgium, defensive hustle won the game. Just like the last one versus Montenegro.
Good things happen to good people? Perhaps.
Or you just really know your teammates.
Naples (2009) I watched @JulieVanloo @EmmaMeesseman & Antonia Delaere reach U16 Final! Now they're 2-0 #EuroBasketWomen2017 @TheBelgianCats pic.twitter.com/sUDDLHooBu— Paul Nilsen (@basketmedia365) June 17, 2017
The Cats have won 2 games by a combined 3 points. Stunning.
Cannot wait for Meesseman to play with the Mystics like this!
What a game!! @AnnWauters12 20 pts,9 rebs,2 ast,5 bs@EmmaMeesseman 23 pts, 6 rebs, 3 ast, 2 stls@MestdaghKim 16 pts,3 rebs,5 ast,4 stls pic.twitter.com/b9UlpoQ1NM— Belgian Cats (@TheBelgianCats) June 17, 2017
I don’t expect it this season, but I think it’s definitely possible.