TORONTO — Coming off a big win in their first game of the GLOBL JAM competition, France continued to play dominant basketball as they beat Belgium 59-32, moving to 2-0 in the women’s pool before they face off against Canada.
The first quarter was much more physical for France than their previous match as they were met with Belgium’s resistance when trying to drive the net. Belgium, for their part, would drive the rim too, taking the one-on-one route to score as they held a narrow 10-6 lead after the first quarter.
Becky Massey fuelled Belgium’s efforts early with five points in the first quarter as both teams struggled to find their tempo, taking forced shots or committing unusual turnovers — searching, perhaps, for a way to get used to each other’s game.
France found the answer first. They jumped out quickly to start the second quarter to even the score, finding their chances in transition. But trying to speed their pace up instead of play the controlled game they thrive in had its drawbacks, too, causing turnovers that allowed Belgium to get right back ahead.
Each team struggled to find their pace again after that. Four minutes passed with no scoring. When the buzzer sounded, the quarter ended in a 16-16 tie despite the momentum France built with its comeback, as Belgium was able to find their scoring from far out to draw even.
Marine Fathoux and Tima Pouye came alive after a slow start with four points each in the second quarter. But the key to France playing up to the level of Belgium was rebounding more — on both sides of the ball — instead of allowing Belgium to easily get the ball back.
“It was a very tight game at the beginning, so after half time we said okay, it is strong, it is tough, and we have to play like that — with more pressure, with more defence to steal some balls and to play the fast break,” said Pouye.
Coming out of the half, France slowed down their ball movement and made smart decisions instead of forcing drives to the basket. The adjustments they made led to them holding Belgium to just four points through the third quarter.
In turn, France also started pressuring Belgium to either play physical at the rim or shoot, using stellar help defence under the basket to force Belgium into long shots that would not fall. The defensive commitment worked, spurring a 10-0 run for France.
Billie Massey, sister of Becky, was a force on both sides of the ball for Belgium as she put the pressure on France defensively, but the combination of France’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor and their help defence kept Belgium at a distance.
Getting fouled under the basket by Belgium offensively also gave France extra points. That, mixed with the efforts of Margot De Freitas — who tipped in seven points in the quarter — as well as France’s broader, well-rounded approach to offence allowed them to take a 21-point lead to end the quarter.
“We have so many good players and we can play together, we just have to keep going like that, to share the ball and to find the best shots that we can,” said Pouye.
Belgium managed to put some pressure back on in the final ten minutes of play as they scored seven points through the first half of the quarter. But France didn’t relent, continuing to find the basket again and again until they led by 25 points with just over three minutes to play.
Emma Vindevogel had found a second wind for Belgium as she scored five points in the final minutes of the game, but the complete team effort from France was too much to overcome as Pouye finished the game with 11 points while Leila Lacan, Fauthoux and De Freitas all finished with seven points.
Becky Massey led Belgium with seven points while Nastja Claessens’s four-point fourth quarter brought her total to six points. As a team, though, Belgium shot just 27.5 per cent and could not keep pace with a France team that improved their shooting by 20 per cent through the second half.
“Tomorrow we have a big game against Canada, so it’s good that we won this game,” said Pouye.