Home » On the buzzer! Dazzling Belgian Cats shake basketball giant USA but lose in the final second

On the buzzer! Dazzling Belgian Cats shake basketball giant USA but lose in the final second

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The Belgian Cats just failed to beat nine-time Olympic champion USA in their first match of the Olympic qualifying tournament on Thursday evening in a swirling Sports Palace. The European champion dominated almost the entire match against a doubting USA, but American star player Stewart won over the tottering giant in the absolute final second: 81-79.

Maarten Delvaux and Patrick Ceulemans

Yesterday at 10:42 PM

Even before the toss, a record was broken in Antwerp on Thursday evening. The Sports Palace was completely full for the match between the European and Olympic champions. All 13,700 seats were sold out in no time. This shattered the record number of spectators for a women’s match – until yesterday held by the Standard football players – in team sports in Belgium. Ten years ago, no cat came to the Cats, but on Thursday evening the largest sports temple in our country rocked on its foundations.

Especially when the Belgian Cats were able to at least keep pace with Team USA, the toughest sports team (m/f) in the world, in the first quarter. The US has won the last seven Olympic Games and four World Cups in a row and presented a star ensemble in Antwerp. But it was the Belgian Cats who dictated the law with great pace and energy: 19-15. And that without two players from the starting five who won the European final last summer. Kyara Linskens misses the qualifying tournament with an ankle injury, playmaker Julie Allemand was spared for the later crucial matches with a knee injury. But even without the two strong players, the Cats did excellently.

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Swirling Sports Palace

Meesseman conducted and had Bethy Mununga and Julie Vanloo score in particular. Vanloo made three three-pointers in the first half and the crowd favorite cheered a loudly cheering Sportpaleis with arm gestures. And the Americans? Despite their intrinsic class, they could not hide a lack of match rhythm. The WNBA has been on hold for a few months and most players did not travel to the European competitions in the winter. 41-year-old GOAT Diana Taurasi made some unusual mistakes and became visibly frustrated. The US has already qualified for Paris as world champions, but did not come to Antwerp to serve as a Belgian punching bag. The Cats actually took a well-deserved rest with a 43-34 lead.

© BELGIUM

More of the same after the break: the US played like loose sand, the Cats like a sparkling collective. The belief grew more and more on the field and in the stands that a gigantic stunt was involved. Symbolic of Belgian self-confidence was Maxuella Lisowa, who scored two three-pointers in quick succession halfway through the third quarter. The Cats went into the final quarter with a nine-point lead.

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Thriller in the last quarter

Unfortunately, that gap in the castle melted like snow in the sun. The American three-pointers now flew in, thanks to specialist Sabrina Ionescu. With just under 8 minutes to go, everything could be done again at 68-68. The ending turned out to be a gripping thriller in which the Cats stayed next to the US until the final seconds. Lisowa had the chance to throw Belgium into delirium with 5 seconds to go, but missed her three-pointer. On the other side, Stewart tapped the ball in at the buzzer: 79-81. What a terrible downer. Especially because in the run-up to the point Plum put a foot outside and the score should not have continued.

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Plum’s foot is clearly on the line. — © cpm

Friday evening at 8:45 PM it’s really do or die for Belgium. The Cats will then play their second group match against Senegal, which lost its first match to African champion Nigeria 65-72 on Thursday evening and is the least strong opponent at this tournament. This means that a victory against Senegal will almost certainly take the Belgian Cats to the Olympic Games. After all, only the worst performing team of the trio Belgium – Senegal – Nigeria is not allowed to go to Paris.

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© BELGIUM

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