Competition reportThe Belgian cats were less than a second away from doing a stunt against the USA. In a thrilling sports palace they pushed the world and Olympic champion to the limit, but Stewart's tip made the difference: 81-79. Shame, but defeat will not change their Olympic mission: to reach Paris, they will have to 'just' beat an African team. Beat Senegal on Friday or Nigeria on Sunday – it's party time in Antwerp.
see Cats lost in Subs to make America a superpower
World champion. Olympic champion. Of course about the game. That says a lot about Team USA's status in basketball. But there wasn't much to notice at the sold-out Sportpaleis. It was the Belgians who imposed their will on America for so long. Two more key fundamentals were also not on the field for a minute: Center Kiara Linskens was sidelined with an ankle injury. But Julie Allemond was on the bench as she trained on Wednesday with a tightly bandaged left knee. Coach Rachid Méziane chose to save his point guard for Friday's decisive game against Senegal.
13,700 supporters – a record attendance for a women's match in Belgium – were delighted to hear it. No Belgian cat is better than Julie Vanloo. Youngsters among the Cats – Resimont, Ramet, Joris and Lisova – also hit the target, while the American stars did not make any of their eight three-point attempts. What to say about Beth Mununga: already in the European championships cats and under the boards without any complications, scoring and rebounding. It doesn't seem to bother her that a champion like Bryn Stewart is staring at her whites.
Cats also stars Emma Meismann. As a captain he was a rock on the surf, but it took him 58 seconds into half-time to score – unusual. But Meismann defended the Cats aggressively – as European champions, a stark contrast to the Cats who lost face in the European Championship preliminary round against Poland in November. They played against America with a knife between their teeth, but it resulted in many mistakes, so that the Americans more or less stayed behind the Belgians (38-43).
And whoever thought Team USA would come out of the locker room with more grit — forget it. The Cats didn't back down and again Mununga played a key role, only to be rested with a minor fourth fault. No worries: Lisova took over without a problem and hit two three-pointers in quick succession. Geldof was able to contribute in the third quarter: 57-65.
Was there a stunt at work? It seemed so, but Ionescu suddenly managed two three-pointers: 68-68. Everything is possible again. Not on my watch, Delaire thought, as he answered her with two drives. Vanloo launched another long-range rocket and scored with a simple lay-up: 75-77. And it – how can it be otherwise with cats – turns into a thriller again. Lisova managed to make the winning basket, but missed. Stewart, on the other hand, capitalized on a chance to win with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
Fought but lost – no shame. The road to Paris is still open.
see Peggy Massey: “Never experienced this before”
USA wins at the buzzer
Not just a stunt! Stewart's scores. Gates fell in the last second: 81-79. It is very painful.
Will Stewart score in time?
Stewart scored at the buzzer. Referee to check.
One more chance for America
One more chance for America. They have five seconds. Stress is great.
79-79: Lizova misses!
Oops! Five seconds from the end, Lisova goes for a three-pointer, but it doesn't go in. The ball is in America's court. What a thriller.
Thirty seconds left
Regeneration is for cats. Still 79-79.
Erik Van Looy and Annelies Verlinden enjoy it
Lots of celebrities in the stands. Home Minister Anneliese Verlinden and Quiz Master Eric Van Looy are supporting.
79-79: Two minutes left
It couldn't be more exciting. Lisova scores after a good drive, but the States immediately pull back. Let's play for another minute and a half.
75-77: Vanloo is faster than the speed of light
Julie Vanloo immediately puts the Cats back in front. She goes to the basket and throws it in cleanly. Three more minutes.
Cats have a higher error rate. This allows the Americans to take two free throws to tie the game again.
72-75: Vanloo with another three-pointer!
She's brimming with confidence: Julie Vanloo. She hits a clean three-pointer!
The lead is gone again.
71-72: What tension
The American women didn't fail their free throws. 71-72: This final phase is absent in cardiac patients.
68-72: Delray again!
Delray does it again! His two points are welcome again. After a good stint away from the States, the Cats are back in charge.
68-70: Smile at Delare
Antonia Delaere fights through the American defense to put the Cats back in front!
68-68: Timeout Belgium
After two or three points the US is back on level terms. Méziane wants to break their momentum and calls a timeout.
62-68: An immediate hit for Meismann
Emma Meesseman immediately does what she has to do. Score and increase the gap to six points again.
62-66: Momentum VS
As expected, this is the start of the fourth quarter for the US. They come back within four points. Méziane intervenes and brings Meismann back to court.
No player from the starting group started Q4. Méziane wants to give them some rest before they finally flame out. Can replacement players keep up with the American stars?
END Q3 (57-66): The fairy tale continues
The third quarter is over. Like the first two, cats are great. They deservedly led 57-66 and had to hold on for another ten minutes.
54-65: Geldof scores too!
Lizova is also scoring now. Amazing ball for Geldof and 54-65 is a fact.
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