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FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020: Meesseman leads Belgium to 61-53 win over Sweden and first Olympic berth

The Belgians were behind early on, but a strong second half secured their ticket to Tokyo.

BASKET OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION TOURNAMENT BELGIUM VS SWEDEN
Emma Meesseman (left) is going to Tokyo!
Photo by VIRGINIE LEFOUR/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

For much of the first half of Belgium’s game against Sweden, it seemed that the Swedish, with WNBA center Amanda Zahui B., could pull off a major upset. Not only were they leading 23-21 at halftime. I honestly thought Belgium would succumb to the pressure and miss out on their first Olympic berth.

But the Belgians took advantage of another big 21-10 third quarter run. Emma Meesseman scored 24 points while Kim Mestdagh added 9 more to lead Belgium to a 61-53 win in Oostende.

Here are Meesseman’s highlights below.

We didn’t see Belgium shoot lights out. They only shot 45 percent from the field. less than 30 percent from the line and 69 percent from the free throw line. Even Meesseman didn’t make 50 percent of her shots — and the Belgians didn’t have a single bench point!

But the Cats answered the bell when everything was on the line. In postgame interviews, Meesseman also indicated that the team is adjusting to “playing with expectations,” which may have been partly why their performance in Women’s EuroBasket last year wasn’t as strong as in 2017 when they won third place.

Either way; Belgium will head to the Olympics in Tokyo this summer for the very first time ever. They are a team that could contend for a medal with some luck. If they are in a favorable group where they make the knockout stage and not face the United States in the quarterfinals, they could be Cinderellas — for now, they still are — in this thing.

For the Mystics, Belgium’s Olympic berth isn’t necessarily good news for their championship hopes. Most teams spend extensive time practicing throughout the summer before the games begin with the exception of the United States.And Meesseman verbally agreed to re-sign with Washington, but that doesn’t mean she’ll play the entire pre-Olympic slate. We won’t know officially until at least Monday, when WNBA contracts can be announced.

Congratulations to Emma, Kim and the Belgium women’s national basketball team for their historic accomplishment.