The stadium at the Groenplaats in Antwerp was again full for this top match in group D, but the atmosphere in the stands was like we hadn’t tasted it in recent days. The fans created a swirling atmosphere that propelled the Belgian Lions forward from the start.

Against Team USA, which, like the Belgians, had won its first two matches, Thibaut Vervoort quickly set the tone with a two-pointer.

The leaden heat affected both teams and the Belgians also had to deal with the refs who did not exactly whistle in favor of the Lions.

The early error burden weighed on Belgium and after yet another dubious call, De Valck even had to go to the side with a bleeding nose. The Americans also understood that the balance was off and were so sympathetic to miss the two free throws after the “fault” by de Valck.

And while the difference in error rate was big, the two teams didn’t give each other an inch on the scoreboard. Vervoort – he again – and a hard-working Celis guided the Lions to overtime.

The team that scores two points first wins. Vervoort tried to decide it with a two-pointer, but was stopped incorrectly. Despite the scorching heat, he remained freezing on the free-throw line. He made the stadium explode with two free throws: 20-18.

Thanks to the win, the Belgians are already certain of a place in the next round.

“Delicious”, laughed star Thibaut Vervoort after the match. “I think we were even more nervous than in our first game. You play against the USA, you can feel that.”

“We kept fighting and the crowd got us through it too. It was a very emotional match and it’s great to get it, but it’s not over yet.”

At times it was very fierce, Vervoort even stood nose to nose. “You can’t let that happen. If you step away at such a moment, you are intimidated. I have stepped forward and we win.”

Vervoort remained diplomatic about the referees. “That’s 3×3. I think sometimes we were carried a little too much by our emotions. We have to stay more controlled in that. We make some stupid mistakes. So we can improve on that.”

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Peggy McColl

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