How this final became one of the ‘crazy’ in French basketball history

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Even Tony Parker, one of his best 18 seasons in the NBA, assures us that he has “seldom seen a game like this, with so much intensity”. Certainly very elated because of his fourth French Champion title he’s earned as Asvel boss, and third in a row, “TP” doesn’t necessarily exaggerate that much. Given the generally disappointing first four games of this Asvel-Monaco series, with only one tight encounter (83-80 for Roca in Match 3), we didn’t necessarily imagine the two Betclic Elite favorites to be able to give us such a high-profile show on Saturday ( 84-82 after extra time).

Villeurbannais captain David Lighty proudly wears the new club title at Betclic Elite. Jean-Philippe Kesek – AFP

At Saturday’s fast-melting Astrobal, Villeurbannais also left on the basis of an unforgettable win (+37) in Game Two (22-7, 7). It is impossible not to be afraid and then a one-way match 5. But Roca would not have made it to the gates of the Euroleague 4 final (2-3 against Olympiacos) without the undeniable virtues of a warrior. Even a heat stroke from Mike James on his return from the locker room had us feeling downhill on edge (60-68, 36).

Then we had the game at hand.

From there, the scenario became intimidating, with two teams coming back for a heavy blow, even after a season in which they played more than 80 official matches. “Then the match was in hand, that’s confirmed by Monaco full-back Leo Westermann. With two other flaws, he was a blessed bread. Then he swung to Asvel’s side.” Sacred in the Betclic Elite from his first two games as head coach, TJ Parker then sums up The state of mind of his group: “We had to keep our strength mentally. We never gave up, and that’s kind of the story of this team. We can’t do better than a match like this for our sport.”

William Howard adds: “She was nervous. You say to yourself ‘Damn, we were at +15 at the start of the game.’ But you don’t let go. There’s no point in arriving at this time of the season to give up, so you fight…” Really late 0- 1 and 1-2 in the series, Asvel once again managed to raise their heads thanks to David Lighty and William Howard, until a recent anthology series from Finals MVP Eli Okobo (20 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds), at 73-75, with Less than 8 seconds to play and all the terrain to cross.

“It is instinct that decides instead of the head.”

“I picked up the pace and saw Mike James turned his head to the right, so I sped up, says the international tricolor. I had to score for sure. What he does brilliantly to equalize (75-75), with Mike James’ foul as a bonus. Then it was hard to see Eli Okubo.” (86.4% practice success in these playoffs) He lost the winning throw.However…”I don’t know what happened to me. Usually, I don’t miss free throws. It gives a little suspense, I think the fans on TV loved it,” the former Phoenix Suns player smiles.

Eli Okubo was logically elected man of the match in the final on Saturday after the decisive victory over ROCA of Paris Lee.
Eli Okubo was logically elected man of the match in the final on Saturday after the decisive victory over ROCA of Paris Lee. Jean-Philippe Ciazek/AFP

And what about the 5,550 Astroballe spectators, not so upset that they are entitled to a 5-minute extension. The moment William Howard, described by his coach on Saturday night as “incredible”, chose to become a champion on both sides of the field. A little introspection for the versatile 28-year-old to try and understand how he has outdone himself.

It’s the kind of games you dream of playing when you’re young. I love pressure. It was crazy, there were 10,000 things going on in my head at that moment. But in the end, I didn’t think about it. In these moments, it is instinct that decides rather than the head. When Eli puts two seconds off the end, I say to myself “Damn, we’ve been delivered”. In the end he misses the ball and we leave for 5 minutes. »

Downsides of William Howard Maballe on Paris Lee

An extension in the form of a final bouquet delivered by the Loire native, author of the far arrow tilting Villeurbannais in the foreground, 53 seconds from the end (from 80-81 to 83-81). Then William Howard raised himself on the other side of the field, when it was necessary to close the circuit against the last two attacks of Paris Lee and Dwayne Bacon.

When Chris Jones loses the ball [à 83-82 et 19 secondes à jouer]I tell myself there’s nothing else to do but run. I don’t know what Paris did to me, I think he slowed down before taking his stand. He handled it badly, because like Nicholas Batum’s Slovenian Klimen Priblic, at the time of half-time driving the Tokyo Olympics, the American’s back was picked up from high altitude by William Howard who came back from nowhere.

“It was a good show for the French championship”

“I didn’t know if Paris Lee could overwhelm, so I felt William would set this counter, enjoy Eli Okubo. He had great confidence and brought us energy and powerful shots.” Plus a final iron defense for that, with Marcus Knight’s complicity, to stop Dwayne’s plans Bacon and the Roca team, unable to shoot under the pressure of T.J. Parker’s men (84-82).

The author of the first three French championship peats since CSP Limoges between 1988 and 1990, Asvel is most comfortable when things go wrong in an extremely hot enclosure. The last word is for Leo Westerman, as fair play as William Howard was a claw: “For this type of game we love basketball a lot, even if of course it hurts us tonight. It was a good showing for the French championship. Without a doubt even the best of all time.”

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