Roca Team has qualified for the semi-finals of the play-offs for the French Championship. Sasa Obradovic’s side, which finished third in the EuroLeague last week, also won Strasbourg’s second game on Friday. It now meets Bourg-en-Bresse in the semifinals (with a best of five). On Wednesday, the Monegasques had already won the home game against Strasbourg 88-84. The away game yielded an 85-83 victory in a packed Salle Rhénus (8,000 spectators). It was certainly not an easy match for the Monegasques who had to wait until the final seconds before victory was secured. With this result, Roca Team avoids having to play an all-deciding game on Sunday in Monaco during the Grand Prix.   

Roca Team had a resounding start to the game and led 15-2 within three minutes, with excellent playing by Matthew Strazel. It held a big lead until the end of the first quarter: 33-23, with some nice scores from Jaron Blossomgame, Jordan Loyd and John Brown. In the second quarter, the team played less cleanly and a large part of the lead was given away. But just when Strasbourg could have tied the game, Strazel made it 41-46 with a thunderous three-pointer just before halftime. Still, emotions ran high and Moneke even kicked a chair on the sidelines out of frustration.     

In the second half, Strasbourg, led by a very inspired Lacombe (ex-Roca Team), came back strongly into the game and the deficit was cleared within a minute. From that moment on, it became a duel where every point became crucial. Monaco elicited a lot of fouls and took advantage of a lot of free throws. Especially Loyd, Diallo and Obodo distinguished themselves in this discipline. But just before the end of the third quarter, Strasbourg actually took the lead (67-66). In the fourth quarter, things remained tense. Monaco quickly regained the lead but twice gave away a four-point lead. In the end, an 81-80 deficit was turned into an 81-85 lead in the closing stages and this margin proved to be enough to reach the semifinals. 

In the other semifinal titleholders ASVEL will play Boulogne-Levallois. Last year Roca Team lost the final to ASVEL and it want to win the national championship this year for the first time. 

PHOTO: Matthew Strazel AS Monaco Basket