by Paul Nilsen
A typically sparkling display from center Emma Meesseman was the highlight of another stunning Belgium performance as they booked their place in the Final with a 73-58 demolition of France.
Meesseman was scintillating with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks to cement her place as one of the leading contenders for tournament MVP. However the crucial contribution came from Lynn Delvaux, very much the ‘X Factor' for this Belgian team who claimed a game high 24 points.
The wing player was delighted afterwards and thanked her coach for giving her the push she needs to shine in games.
"Everyone knows about Emma and Julie but we normally need a third or fourth scorer and I was that player today."
|Margaux Galliou was more than solid for France with 8 pts and 5 rebs in just over 18 minutes but could not avoid the loss|
"It is never good for us if only Emma and Julie score because if we all contribute then I makes a big difference."
"The coach has to really push me because I know I can switch off mentally in games and sometimes lose my concentration."
"We definitely showed in this game as a team the kind of intensity on defence that we need."
Both teams started the contest in a nice rhythm in the opening two minutes, both trading lay-ups while the match up at the center spot between Diallo and Meesseman was already taking a fascinating shape.
At 4-4, Coach Guppillotte took Diallo out of the game and within seconds, Meesseman made a big post play, taking Cornelie in the paint to complete an ‘And-1' play. The Belgian star then took Cornelie again who was finding it tough going.
France were relying on beating Belgium down the court in transition to good effect - the likes of Epoupa and Mercier both profiting from lay-ups. However Vanloo soon showed her class for Belgium. With the ball in her hands out on the wing she faked the lightening quick Epoupa and drove baseline, making the lay up and also drawing the foul.
That put Belgium 13-10 in front and led to Coach Guppillotte calling a time out, only for Vanloo to extend her teams advantage by converting the bonus point from the line.
Cornelie then made up for her early difficulties with Meesseman by taking advantage of her opponent being on the bench by making two free-throws after she was fouled on a power move.
France were staying in the game because of their speed and determination to get to the hoop, although three missed free-throws didn't help their cause. After a terrific right handed drive by Ann Schyvens to finish the quarter, Belgium found themselves17-13 ahead.
The second period started with wing players Claire Stievenard and Lynn Delvaux both getting on the action for their teams. The former sunk a three-pointer for France and the latter scored seven quick-fire points, including a three from the corner to open up a healthy 24-16 advantage for Belgium.
At 28-20, Sara Chevaugeon dropped a trey from the corner for the French to trim the gap but
|Emma Meesseman was huge, displaying her quiet leadership on both sides of the floor with 18 pts, 15 rbs and 5 blocks|
Meesseman was soon back rebounding and scoring in the paint. Her two free throws handing her team their first double digit lead at 33-23.
While Vanloo buried a triple and made another sweet drive, France dug deep and made some shots to ensure they narrowed slightly at 38-29 heading towards the locker room but Meesseman was dominating Diallo in the crucial match-up.
Delvaux continued her good work from the first half with back to back scores for Belgium and three minutes in, Meesseman had made extended the lead to 46-31 and it looked a long way back for France.
Belgium were looking superior in every area of the court other than quickness but that barely mattered. The ball movement was superb, they were crashing the boards and executing plays all over the floor.
A three-pointer by Delmulle kept Belgium with a nice cushion at 50-36 and gave Coach Guppillotte plenty to talk about during his time-out. However Vanloo summed up Belgium dominance by chasing the speedy Epopua the length of the court to block her in mid flight.
France could make little impression and heading into the final ten minutes, they still trailed by a worrying 55-42. With Delvaux in scintillating form from behind the arc in the opening stages, the result never looked in any doubt down the stretch and so it proved as Belgium strolled to the final game of the tournament.
Coach Daniel Goethals was thrilled on the final buzzer and explained,
"My first year in the job and now I want a gold medal. It would be so nice to enjoy this win but within seconds of the game finishing, I am already deep into the possibilities of the next game in my mind."
"My players were incredible. They had so much energy and concentration. I am so tough on them as a coach but I have to be to keep pushing them on."
It was also a performance witnessed by Arvid Diels, coach of the senior Belgium womens team. He can't have failed to have been impressed by the display and the pending gold or silver medal.