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A Nail-Biter, Heart-Stopper, Brave Roca So Close to Retaining the French Championship

Even the greatest have their setbacks. Perhaps the way they deal with adversity even defines their road to future successes. Roca is full of brave hearts and while the Roca Team will not lift the title of champion of France for the first time in its history, it showed the competitive spirit that will surely lead them back to be Champions of France.

Despite two match points, and an 8-point lead 4 minutes from the end of this epilogue-like game 5, Sasa Obradovic’s men came across an Asvel team who also never gave up and who went to go after it after extra time (82-84). 

The season remains magnificent and historic all the same with these Euroleague playoffs and the incredible clash against Olympiakos in the quarter-finals.

The Game

For this contest, the one that will decide the champion, the final match of the season, Sasa Obradovic keeps the same group on the score sheet and aligns in his starting five Mike James, Alpha Diallo, Yakuba Ouattara, Will Thomas and Jerry Boutsiele. 

Opposite, in an Astroballe crammed full TJ Parker starts with Okobo, Knight, Lighty, Howard and Fall. As in game 4, Villeurbanne starts with the pedal to the metal, taking it to the Monegasques who defend very strongly. But a huge dunk leaves our brave team lagging (2-10). The Astroballe exults, the room is sold out.

The Roca Team is wavering and is temporarily overwhelmed by the extreme desire of Asvel. Marcos Knight once again does his old team a lot of damage and the Roca Boys are 14 points behind after only 5 minutes of play (6-20) and the gap even climbed to 17 points. The Asemists are finally finding their game and come back to 11 points on two shots by Donatas Motiejunas (13-24) and end Q1 (13-26).

Roca Fights Back 

The Roca Team raised their tone in defense with much more convincing attitudes on the pitch. And little by little are catching up to (24-31). The gap is stabilizing between the two teams, with Alpha Diallo on the one hand, who is very difficult to stop, and Elie Okobo, still just as dangerous, on the other. On a throw from Will Thomas, ASM got a little closer at the close of the last two minutes of the first period (32-37) though ending ten points back at (33-43).

Monaco came back strong in this second act, again with a defense that bothered the locals, and Jerry Boutsiele who played perfectly to narrow the score to (44-47).

Donatas Motiejunas and Léo Westermann play to their size advantage, and for the first time since the start of the game, Monaco equalize on an attacking rebound from Alpha Diallo (53-53).

On a throw from Lighty, Asvel ends Q3 with a very small lead (53-54).

Mike James digs deep like a great player and sends two missiles from nowhere to cool the Astroballe, and force TJ Parker to take a time-out (59-55). Dwayne Bacon chooses his moment to become very difficult to stop. He allows his team to take an 8-point lead 4 minutes from the end of this final. Asvel does not abdicate and fight to (68-67). It’s unbreathable…

Paris Lee and Chris Jones respond (70-69). With 14 seconds left, the Roca Team are ahead (74-71) then (75-73). Elie Okobo goes up the field at full speed and scores with the fault! But he misses his bonus throw. 

Neck and Neck Going into Overtime

What an incredible scenario! The game goes into overtime to decide between the two best French teams (75-75). The Roca Boys do not make a single point in the first 3 minutes of this extra time, and both teams are at the end of their rope physically. But Howard and Okobo get the ball in orbit giving them a 5-point lead (75-80).

Will Thomas grabs the offensive rebound and goes to the basket, before Dwayne Bacon scores in transition (79-80). This match is completely crazy between the two French Euroleague representatives who never want to abdicate. And Mike James again put the Roca Team with one minute to play on the scoreboard (81-80).

Howard, Villeurbanne’s chief sniper lights up the Astroballe bringing the score to (81-83). At 37 seconds from the end, Mike James makes only one throw (82-83). Paris Lee intercepts the ball, and goes to the circle, but it is incredibly countered by Howard. It is amazing what is happening in Villeurbanne.

Elie Okobo misses three out of four shots (82-84) but it is enough to win.

The Roca Team was so close to the holy grail. Let’s all thank these brave hearts with indomitable spirit for a historic season. 

Léo Westermann (captain of the Roca Team): “It’s all about the details at the end. It could have gone one way or the other on this game 5. It was a great basketball game tonight. Asvel was more regular in this series. We have regrets on other matches before, not on the one tonight. I am sad for the supporters and Monaco who have been waiting for this for a long time.”

Elie Okobo (Asvel leader): “We played with heart, we gave it our all to come back. Monaco is an incredible formation, what a series!”

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