Meesseman: It’s a dream - and I hope we won’t wake up!
PRAGUE (FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017) - It's the first time at FIBA EuroBasket Women for EuroLeague Women and WNBA star Emma Meesseman, and Belgium's first tournament for 10 years. Now they've reached the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup for the first time - who would bet against a first medal too?
Meesseman was exceptional in the historic Quarter-Final win over Italy, racking up a gaudy stat-line of 28 points, 11 boards, 5 assists and 5 blocks.
It wasn't plain sailing for the Belgian team though, as they repeated their trick of most games so far: building an early advantage only to see it whittled away.
Belgium led 27-11 toward the end of the first period, but the lead was down to two entering the fourth quarter. The Belgian defense was able to hold Italy scoreless for the first four minutes of the final period though, pulling away to put their names in the history books.
"We have a general problem in the third quarter! Every time we are up a lot and then they come back," said the UMMC Ekaterinburg and Washington Mystics star after the game. "So that's something we have to work on, but we're a young team so we still have room to work on it. It cost Italy a lot of energy to come back, and then we still had energy left, so I'm just glad that we found it to come back, and we were mature enough to stay smart."
Meesseman forms a stellar post duo with veteran Ann Wauters, with the two having an intuitive understanding despite limited chance to train together: "It's weird really because we don't practice a lot together, but somehow we do find the link between us. It's so easy to play with her - I think it's because we have the same vision of how to play, same thoughts on how to move, and it makes it so easy for us and for the team to play together."
"Emma's impact is huge," says Belgium's head coach Philip Mestdagh, whose daughter Kim provides the wing scoring threat that perfectly complements the inside pair. "She's great as a player and also as a person - she stays humbles and stays working hard. It's so nice to have her in the team."
Mestdagh credits the opportunities available for his players around Europe in improving the standard of his team: "Over the last couple of years, we had players moving abroad to play in stronger competition, and that's what we needed to reach something with our national team. When they go abroad and play in stronger competitions with bigger clubs, they have more practice. It leads to better individuals, and that helps to make the team better."
And what to say about this: we got a World Championship ticket! Y'all can read this?!!?!?? We, Belgium 🇧🇪 are going to the Worlds!!!! 😱🙈— Emma Meesseman (@EmmaMeesseman) June 22, 2017
Meesseman has tasted glory with her country at youth level, winning MVP as she led Belgium to gold at the FIBA U18 Women's European Championship in 2011. Does she dare to dream of a medal at senior level? "I think we started to dream already, because it was a dream just to come here. Then when we do this, I think all of Belgium lives with us in this dream. And I hope we won't wake up."