No other words can describe this battle between Japan and our Belgian Cats. In a game that offered pretty much everything a basketball game has to offer our Belgian Cats showed again why they truly belong at the highest stage as they got the 92-84 win.
If you didn’t thoroughly enjoy this game then basketball simply isn’t the game for you. Despite another slow start our Cats had clearly found their usual rhythm and teamplay and thanks to a brilliant Raman they started to chip away at their 13-22 1st quarter deficit. When Hanne Mestdagh drained a three in the opening minutes of the 2nd quarter our Cats had gotten themselves all the way back and even regained the 26-24 lead. It was only the start of an impressive rush which would bring them up by 6 points at the half (40-34).
The rush continued after the break and in no time the Cats were holding on to a double-digit lead which they further increased to their maximum lead of 18 points, pushed on by the strong duo of Raman and Meesseman. And perhaps most impressive of all: the excellent teamplay of our Cats. The ball was constantly moving and so was everyone else. Players were constantly diving to the paint with smart backdoor cuts, leading to a lot of easy scores on an excellent 28 assists.
Japan wasn’t about to simply go away though and led by Hayashi who channeled her inner Steph Curry with some spectacular outside shooting they inched closer and closer and put some doubt in the minds of our Cats. Their tempo dropped, their offensive efficiency came to a crawl and Hayashi remained unguardable and suddenly Japan had come all the way back to within 1 (85-84) with a little more than a minute left to play. In those final minutes Allemand and Meesseman made sure that Japan couldn’t close the gap entirely and our Cats eventually held on for the 92-84 victory in this very thrilling game.
Without really having to showcase her individual skills Emma Meesseman led our Cats with 23 pts, 7 rebs & 5 asts as she was perfectly set up by game MVP Jana Raman (16 pts, 6 rebs & 4 asts) and Julie Allemand (16 pts, 3 rebs, 7 asts). Kyara Linskens chipped in with 14 pts & 5 rebs, while Kim Mestdagh added 10 pts, 2 rebs & 2 asts.
For Japan it was Saki Hayashi who went off for 24 pts on 8/13 from behind the arc, while Nagaoka added 13 pts and Tokashiki 11 pts & 5 rebs.
Tomorrow our Cats have their all-deciding match-up against Sweden. On paper, definitely the weakest team of the group but of course every game needs to be played and our Cats will again need your support… so everyone should be present to cheer your team to the Olympics!