What a ride! Emma Meesseman’s national team did something that basically no one thought they would do: sweep Group D in EuroBasket Women 2017 with a win over Latvia, 62-58.
We really did it!! Got that W Latvia! Group winner + direct ticket to the QF's on Thursday!! #EuroBasketWomen2017 #basketbelgium @FIBA pic.twitter.com/TXAiPvGEE6— Belgian Cats (@TheBelgianCats) June 19, 2017
Group D included Montenegro, Latvia and powerhouse Russia, who was overwhelmingly favored to dominate.
Belgium had not made the quarterfinals since 2007. Ann Wauters, 36 years old, who came out of national team retirement in 2015 when she saw Emma Meesseman and Kim Mestdagh drop 30 points a piece during the qualification round, definitely realized there was an opportunity there.
Here are the the highlights from today, below.
And she was right! By winning all three of their games over the weekend by a combined seven points, they get an extra day off and a direct entrance to the quarterfinals on Thursday. The top five teams will make it to Spain next year for the World Cup.
The Cats worked their tails off in all three games, but especially against Russia who had a late surge and earned an overtime that the Belgians won by ONE point.
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
In the final analysis of all three games, defensive hustle won. When shots stopped falling, the composure of this Belgian squad was the difference. In the final minute of all three games, Montenegro, Russia and today against Latvia, they did not blink.
Belgium was trailing Latvia the entire second half and then they went off for 18 points in the fourth, and held Latvia to nine points. No sweat. The game face we all know and love from Meesse through feast or famine here in Washington, definitely has it’s roots in this Belgian team that has been playing together since before 2009. This is who they are. Pro’s pros.
I don’t know if I have ever seen Meesseman foul out like she did with three minutes remaining against Montenegro, much less swear about it. But she did, and even without her, they pulled off a clutch performance down the stretch.
No one shot particularly well in this game, but defense showed up when it had to.
No question, this team believes it can beat anyone! We will see if they can keep up this charmed run on Thursday.
And this is exactly what I hope to see between Meesseman and Elena Delle Donne, eventually. Great reads.
Give and go between @EmmaMeesseman and @AnnWauters12 as @TheBelgianCats lead by 2 at HT! #EuroBasketWomen2017— FIBA (@FIBA) June 19, 2017