VILLENEUVE (EuroCup Women) – A legend of Belgian basketball, Ann Wauters is now tasked with heading back to her homeland next week and breaking the hearts of so many of her compatriots.
The veteran star must once again inspire Villeneuve d’Ascq to overturn a first leg deficit in EuroCup Women after her team came up short in the opening meeting of the 2015 Final.
The French side were edged out 68-64 by tournament first-timers Castors Braine on their own floor and now need to launch another salvage mission against their rivals who are located just a short jump across the border in Belgium.
Pivotal to helping turn around a nine point deficit in the Semi Finals against Maccabi Bnot, Wauters is keeping a cool head after the opening showdown with Castors Braine.
"We were surprised by how aggressive they were at the beginning of the game," declared the center.
"Although we are really disappointed, it is only the first half (of the tie)," she added.
Virginie Bremont was the saviour for Villeneuve, ensuring her team weren’t further behind after leading the way in points, assists and steals.
Meanwhile the vibrant visitors have yet to lose on their home floor and that record will remain intact whatever happens next week, since the club have had to move the second leg game to nearby Charleroi in order to satisfy the unprecedented demand for tickets.
With anywhere up to 6,000 fans anticipated for the second leg, it promises to be quite an occasion - not only for Castors Braine, but for women’s basketball in Belgium.
Just take Emma Meesseman for example.
The WNBA star and former FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year is arguably now the most prominent Belgian player having taken over the baton from Wauters.
She captured the mood and buzz when she confessed she would love to be able to head out of Russia where she currently plays with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje just to see the second leg.
Someone else who used to step out with Villeneuve is Marjorie Capreaux and she enjoyed her return to her old home floor with Castors.
Clenched fist pumping the air after the final buzzer in celebration, she had every reason to be satisfied after four steals and a scintillating six assists – two of which were fit for any highlights reel, as she firstly passed around her back and then dished one backwards over her head.
"We started well and it helped us," she said afterwards.
"We really tried to stop their offence.
"Four points is nothing, but I am proud of the victory," added Capreaux.
The other person smiling more than most was Castors Braine play-caller and Latvia national team head coach, Ainars Zvirgzdins.
It’s been quite a season and quite a week.
Added to the satisfaction of his team taking a valuable road win, he watched intently as Anete Steinberga showed she can be a force at EuroBasket Women 2015 and turn it on in the big games after contributing a stellar 23 points and eight rebounds.
Coming on the back of veteran duo Anete Jekabsone and Gunta Basko-Melnbarde both paving the way for respective returns in the summer, he has every reason to be happy.
Although taking Castors Braine this one last step is what matters most right now.
Belgian basketball will hold its breath and see if the truly remarkable run of the debutantes will result in silverware – or whether the most famous basketball name the nation has ever produced in Wauters, will return to her homeland and break their collective hearts.
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day
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