02/08/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/08/2020 16:09
OSTEND (Belgium) - A triumphant full house in Ostend celebrated an absorbing 92-84 win for Belgium as they squeezed past Japan to get off the mark at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The hosts almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after coming close to blowing an 18-point lead in the last period, but made the clutch plays to get it done at the death.
Turning Point: With less than six minutes remaining, Belgium led 78-62 and were flying. But Japan then shot the lights out with a flurry of threes to get within a point and set up a nerve-shredding conclusion. However, Julie Allemand came up on defense with a terrific block inside the last 60 seconds and Emma Meeseman executed next time down the floor to make the game safe.
Game Heroes: Meesseman led the way with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and there were plenty of excellent cameos. Jana Raman who was largely behind the best moments of a sweet second quarter for the hosts that was the foundation for victory. She recorded 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Equally, Kyara Linskens and Julie Allemand barely missed all night and both came up with memorable defensive plays too.
Stats Don't Lie: It was all about the assists and Belgium handed out 28 of them. Meanwhile Meesseman, Linskens, Raman and Allemand shot a quite staggering combined effort of 29-of-38. That helped the Cats shoot more than 61 percent for the game as a team.
Bottom Line: Belgium found a higher gear in the second quarter and it was amazing to watch as they recaptured the brand of basketball that won them many fans in recent times. While they left the backdoor open for Japan, thanks mainly to the stunning eight triples from Saki Hyashi, they got it done. But they are not in Tokyo yet and still need to finish the job on Sunday. As for Japan, they are now 1-1 but their reaction on the buzzer and taking the plaudits of the crowd underlined how much they enjoyed playing in the contest.
Now they will prepare themselves for the physicality of Canada on Sunday.