|14 August 2011|
|France never found a way to stop Emma Meesseman. The tournament MVP finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three steals, three assists and three blocks |
They showed greatness. They showed dedication. They showed team spirit. They hit the hardwood every time it was necessary, rising afterwards on their way to success.
There is only one definition to sum it all up. Champions. Belgium are the champions of the Global Vision U18 European Championship Women.
The same generation of players that two years ago lost to Spain in the final of the U16 European Championship Women, has now won the gold medal for Belgium, after crushing France, 77-49.
France was the same team that had beaten Belgium by 20 points just four days earlier, and forced them to reach the final the hard way.
But that bumpy road, with two back-to-back victories in the closing seconds of two thrilling games, made Belgium all the more powerful.
Belgium locked their defense and threw away the key. This is the simplest way to explain what happened in Antonio Alexe Arena of Oradea on Sunday evening.
After scoring 18 points in the first half, France managed only 14 in the next two quarters and scored most of their 17 of the last period in garbage time, when it didn't matter at all any more.
Meanwhile Emma Meesseman, the MVP of the tournament, and Jullie Vanloo, chosen by the coaches in the All Tournament Team, did almost all the damage in offense.
Meesseman finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, while Vanloo added 18 points.
Coach Benny Mertens offered Meesseman a chance for a standing ovation by benching her with two minutes left in the game.
France hardly got the ball in the paint in the first half and they forced 13 attempts from the three-point line, scoring only three.
They abused long jump-shots and, as a result, they never got to the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes of the game.
On the other side Belgium oriented their offense mostly on penetrations and they got more often to the free-throw line, shooting 18 attempts in the first half.
|Point guard Julie Vanloo (right), proudly showing her gold medal with Lynn Delvaux here, gave Meesseman all the help she wanted from outside |
The Benelux team missed seven of them, otherwise the lead could have been even bigger after the first 20 minutes.
The score was 18-18 at the first buzzer, but a huge second quarter boost Belgium to a 12-point margin at halftime, 39-27. Belgium outscored France 15-4 in the last 05:39 of the first half.
Devliegher picked up the game from where her team-mates left off, and nailed a three-point shot to give Belgium the biggest gap up to that point, 42-27.
Coach Arnaud Guppillotte asked for a time out to stop the bleeding after Meesseman banked in a tough jumper as the shot clock expired, and on the next possession France committed a turnover. It was 48-28 for Belgium.
The eventual champions continued to display a perfect transition game, with players from the wings cutting quickly towards the basket and the French team was absolutely shut down.
Nothing worked in this game for les Bleues after their impressive performance with Sweden in the semi-finals.
The lead took epic proportions in the last quarter with Belgium leading by 31 points, 75-44, with 1:48 to go.
Margaux Galliou and Jodie Cornelie were the top scorers for France, with seven points each in a disappointing performance.