November 16, 2020
Belgium clinches spot in EuroBasket Women 2021, but COVID-19 spoils several rosters
Allemand, Zandalasini, Jones shine in second window of qualifiers, while Meesseman, Zahui B., Sabally miss out
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The second window of the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2021 qualifiers took place from Nov. 12-15, and despite COVID-19 throwing some rosters in flux, the powerhouse teams stayed at the top and Belgium even locked up an early bid to the tournament.
Teams will play their final games to determine the EuroBasket Women field in a window currently slated to take place on Feb. 4 and 6, 2021. Each of the nine group winners plus the five best second-place finishers earn a place in the tournament, which will take place in France and Spain from June 17-27.
Despite being without Emma Meesseman, who announced last week she had contracted the coronavirus, Belgium clinched its spot in EuroBasket Women 2021 by defeating Portugal and Ukraine to remain undefeated in qualifying play. It joins Spain and France, the top two finishers at the 2019 tournament, in the field of qualified teams.
Julie Allemand and Kim Mestdagh were consistently good for Belgium, with both averaging double figures in scoring and Allemand nearing a triple-double with nine points, six rebounds and eight assists against Portugal. Not to be overlooked, both Billie Massey and Jana Raman had points-rebounds double-doubles in the Portugal game.
Soon after the Cats’ defeat of Ukraine, Finland’s defeat of Portugal solidified Belgium’s place in the final tournament as it clinched the top spot in Group G. Next summer, the Belgians will look to improve upon their third-place EuroBasket Women finish from 2017 and fifth-place finish from 2019.
Speaking of Ukraine, Alina Iagupova netted a triple-double of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in its opening victory against Finland. The Ukrainians remain two games behind Belgium in their group and will try for one of the runner-up qualification spots in February’s window.
Like Belgium, Sweden felt the loss of a key player as Amanda Zahui B. also tested positive for coronavirus last week. Luckily, playing in a qualifying group of three teams meant it only had to play once this window, and it defeated Israel soundly, 90-51, to remain at the top of Group B. The team might have qualified for EuroBasket Women this weekend if not for Montenegro’s win over Israel in the first game of the window.
Satou Sabally was the third WNBA player to announce she wouldn’t participate in this qualifying window due to testing positive for coronavirus. However, thanks to Marie Gülich averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds, Germany still beat Latvia and North Macedonia to remain tied with Croatia at the top of Group I.
One of the most exciting matches of the weekend saw Turkey and Serbia needing two overtimes to settle their final Group E game, with 2019 bronze medal winner Serbia eventually prevailing 83-76.
In one of the final games in the window, Denmark notched its first EuroBasket Women qualifying win since 1999, defeating Romania 91-74. While it remains a tall order for the team to qualify for the 2021 tournament, needing to turn around a 1-3 record in games against top-20 teams Italy and Czech Republic (both 3-1), this moment was still important to the players.
“It was a great win and very important for our program,” Danish forward Maria Jespersen said. “It is very emotional. We only started up the national team again two years ago and we needed people in Denmark to donate money to help us. So it feels really good when we have all sacrificed so much and then you see that things are going in the right direction. We showed that we belong here on this stage.”
Cecilia Zandalasini averaged 15 points and 6.5 assists in Italy’s two wins, the second of which denied Czech Republic an early qualification to EuroBasket Women 2021.
In Great Britain’s only game of the window, Kristine Anigwe collected 15 points and eight rebounds, while Temi Fagbenle added eight points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Bosnia and Herzegovina could have grabbed its first EuroBasket Women qualification since 1999, but it fell to Russia in the teams’ second meeting. In that one, Jonquel Jones had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Maria Vadeeva had six points and seven rebounds for Russia. Group C now requires an indirect tiebreaker to determine its winner, as the two teams won’t face each other in the February window.