Follow FIBA on Facebook
Bold Billie inspiring Belgium
Sopron (FIBA U18 Women's European Championship 2017) - Playing against a host country is always a tough experience. For youngsters, the challenge to overcome a hostile crowd amid a frenetic environment is magnified. Accordingly, inspired by their vocal fans, hosts Hungary were strong favorites against Belgium in the Quarter-Finals having fed off their crowd during a dominant start to the tournament.
Undaunted by the difficult task, Belgium impressively overcame the obstacles during a gutsy 59-56 Quarter-Finals victory over a stunned Hungary. There were times during the game were Belgium appeared to be wilting under the pressure, as Hungary mounted a second-half comeback to hit the lead at various stages.
It appeared a familiar tale was unfolding but, impressively, Belgium dug deep to claim a momentous victory and a spot in the semis against the Czech Republic. The catalyst of Belgium's resoluteness was their inspiring captain Billie Massie, who handled the pressure with aplomb to finish with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
At 6ft 2in (1.88m), Massie is an intimidating presence and the rock of Belgium's defensive game plan. Massie, along with her twin sister Becky, protects the rim but has the agility to switch on other players making Belgium extremely difficult to score on.
In the Quarter-Final, Hungary, built on finesse and athleticism, were overwhelmed by a physical Belgium, who controlled the tempo. Most impressively, Belgium didn't wilt during Hungary's comeback when the crowd found its collective voice.
Belgium's resilience can be attributed to Massie, who is a composed figure in a nice balance to firebrand coach Arvid Diels. However, the 17-year-old is not afraid to be vocal to her teammates.
"I shout a lot at my teammates on-court to try and encourage them," she says. "But generally I like to inspire them through my actions. If I am doing things right and setting an example then my teammates will follow."
As Belgium's defensive anchor, Massie leads the tournament in rebounds and blocks with averages of 12.4 boards and 3.2 rejections per game. Massie says Belgium relishes playing hardnosed defense.
"We always concentrate on our defense more than our offensive," she says. "Our defense has been very good but we were disappointed we let Hungary back into the game and we know we will have to play more consistently against the Czech Republic."
Averaging 9.8 points per game on 40% shooting, Massie hopes to improve her output on the offensive end. "I have been solid on defense all tournament but I need to improve my offensive and score more," she says. "It will put less pressure on us if I can score more."
Massie says she enjoys playing with twin Becky, who has also been a towering presence with averages of 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds. "It is really fun playing for Belgium next to my sister as we have always played together," she says. "I am really proud of her development and she is a key to our success."
After such a thrilling victory over Hungary, Massie hopes Belgium will be celebrating a championship in the coming days. "I hope we can go all the way but it's going to be tough," she says. "We are confident and will give it our best shot."