The 3X3 Lions have qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in Debrecen, Hungary, after a perfect course. It is the first time that 3X3 basketball is an Olympic discipline. The four members of 3X3 Team Antwerp (with Nick Celis, Thierry Mariën, Thibaut Vervoort and Raf Bogaerts) form Team Belgian 3X3 Lions. In addition to the Belgian Cats, there is therefore a second basketball team in Tokyo.
After the two on two Friday in the group match against Slovenia and Ukraine, the 3X3 Lions won the semifinals 16-15 against Mongolia. Raf Bogaerts scored the winning basket for Belgium at the buzzer. In the final, the 3X3 Lions beat host country Hungary 21-14. Celis, Mariën, Bogaerts and Mariën did it collectively with sharp and efficient basketball against the physically strong Hungarians and took the lead throughout the game.
“This is unbelievable. Years of hard work on Nick Celis’s project are finally paying off,” said Raf Bogaerts. There are eight teams in Tokyo on the 3X3 program of the lot. The Lions are one of them. “Magical, I have no other words for this,” said Thibaut Vervoort finally.