Basketball: Monaco one step away from history

AS Monaco Basket's Matthew Strazel v Boulogne-Levallois

There is more than one way of winning a match. AS Monaco Basketball’s first victory against Boulogne-Levallois was secured at a canter. The Roca Team were made to sweat for Monday’s win (95-88), but the result is all the same – Monaco are just one win away from being crowned French champions. 

It was clear from tipoff that Boulogne-Levallois were fighting for their lives. It wasn’t going to be as easy as it was on Saturday when the Roca Team took the ascendancy in the five-game Betclic Elite Final series. Victor Wembanyama (19 points) was shackled by John Brown III in the first match, but he showed signs of liberation in the first quarter, scoring the first four points as the Parisian side began with a 10-point unreplied streak.

Victor Wembanyama by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life
Victor Wembanyama by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

The Roca Team’s lethargic start was punished, but Matthew Strazel’s (11 points) on-the-buzzer three pointer limited the damage (15-26). Monaco’s route back into the tie was a long one with TaShawn Thomas (18 points) assuring breathing space for Boulogne-Levallois throughout the second quarter, but carried by Alpha Diallo (nine points) and Jordan Loyd (23 points, six assists), the Roca Team levelled and then took the lead before the return to the dressing rooms.

From 14 down to 12 up

Loyd’s exit from the court was earlier than others after a clash created an open and bloody wound. Luckily for Monaco, he was fit enough to return, and in the absence of Mike James (five points), who registered a largely anonymous performance, Loyd carried the team on his shoulders towards victory.

However, once taking the lead, Monaco still didn’t have things all their own ay. Whilst Wembanyama wasn’t as dominant as he has been for large wathes of the season, he still carried the presence to cause problems, and keep Boulogne-Levallois’ scoreboard ticking.

The final step on the accelerator came midway through the fourth-quarter when the Roca Team faithful, incensed by some questionable refereeing decisions, roared their team on to a crucial seven-point streak, capped by a Strazel three pointer.

History beckons

Monaco managed their gap, and when Elie Okobo (11 points) registered the two-pointer that gave his side a 12-point advantage, it was clear the game was beyond Boulogne-Levallois. The defeat (95-88) leaves Monaco within one victory of a first-ever French title, which can be wrapped up in Roland Garros as soon as Thursday.

Sasa Obradovic bemoaned the slow start, but was happy to be within one victory of the title. “We found the energy for the fourth quarter, but why we didn’t find it in the first half? It’s unacceptable. You give the opponent confidence. They played at a high level because we gave them the chance to do it. You need to respect every opponent from the first minute. In the end we did it, and we are happy with the win. But you can’t give them chances,” said the Serbian coach.

History beckons for this Monaco side, whose unstoppable rise looks like yielding more silverware before the end of the season.


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Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life