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The Betclic Elite regular season was wrapped-up on Tuesday. AS Monaco Basketball’s defeat against Cholet (92-85) was ultimately inconsequential to the final ranking, as they prepare to face Strasbourg in the play-offs.
Having collapsed in the third-quarter against Limoges and then magnificently risen from the ashes in the fourth, Monaco couldn’t quite pull off the unthinkable against Cholet despite a late rally.
With the play-offs in mind, Donata Motiejunas and Dwayne Bacon didn’t make the trip, although the experienced Mike James and Will Thomas were both in the starting five. Truthfully, the Roca Team were but a bystander in La Meilleraie; the night belonged to Cholet, who in recent weeks have risen up the table in a manner not dissimilar to Monaco’s Euroleague trevails, to clinch the final play-off spot.
Cholet began like a team that, unlike the Principality side, had something to play for. Spurred-on by their home fans, they took an early lead. Monaco hit back in the second-quarter, although neither side could pull away. Thomas’ two free-throws before the half-time buzzer gave the away side a slender lead (42-40).
The match was decided on the return from the dressing rooms. Just as they had over the weekend, the Roca Team were absent in the third-quarter and were duly punished for it. Conceding 30-points, whilst scoring just 14 of their own, they had a mountain to climb in the fourth-quarter, and unlike in recent weeks, they couldn’t make it to the summit.
Seven consecutive points from James sparked a miniature revival, but Monaco couldn’t stop leaking points, making the 12-point gap a difficult one to close. Cholet ran out deserved winners (92-85) as the home fans invaded the court at full-time to celebrate their first qualification to the play-offs for 10 years.
As manager Sasa Obradovic said recently, first place looked unrealistic and second-place looked assured. So it played out. Monaco finished second and will now play Strasbourg, who beat them in overtime in the French Basketball Cup in March.
A difficult task therefore awaits Monaco, but one that they will go into as favourites. The best-of-three tie kicks off at the Salle Gaston Medecin next Wednesday.
Photo source: AS Monaco Basketball
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