The elimination of the Principality’s Roca Team from the EuroLeague, thanks to a defeat in overtime against Fenerbahçe, on Wednesday, May 8 has hit hard. The entire season of coach Sasa Obradovic’s team was geared towards reaching the ‘Final Four’ in Berlin. Now, that goal has disappeared like snow in the sun. The Monaco basketball team has only one option left to save the season, having already been eliminated in two national cup tournaments by Paris in the ‘Coupe de France’ and Dijon in the ‘Leaders Cup’.

The Roca Team must now do everything in its power to at least prolong the French championship. Last year, the Roca Team won its first French championship ever, along with the Coupe de France, and finished third in the EuroLeague. Two years ago, the Monaco team was eliminated in the quarterfinals, as was the case this Wednesday.

Over the five play-off games, Fenerbahçe was probably the better team, and in any case the team that made the fewest mistakes in the most decisive moments. Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius of the Turkish side stated immediately after the completion of the fifth game; “It was a crazy series. Totally madness. The ball fell on the Fener side. There is not much else to say or add. Tonight, my players left their hearts on the pitch.”

Monaco lost its first game in overtime two weeks ago by 91-95, having not trailed once during official time, that loss made for a complicated series. The second game in Monaco at the Salle Gaston Médecin was won by 93-88, but in Istanbul, Fener took the lead again by winning the third match by 89-78. Last Friday, Monaco made up for the first mistake by winning in the hot basketball temple with a relatively low scoreline of 62-65. In the end, all went wrong last Wednesday, with a one-point overtime loss by 79-80. The verdict is bitter.

Top Lithuanian basketball player Donatas Motiejunas honestly accepted the defeat; “respect to Fenerbahçe who played an incredible game. They stayed calmer at the end, they found open players and played smart. Tonight, they were better.” Roca Team coach Sasa Obradovic was less critical of his team, as he wanted to protect them in public, although the world had collapsed for him too; “I can’t criticise my players. We played a physical and demanding game until the end, and it was almost a lottery, on a ball here or a decision there. We’ve had a great season but we’re missing that buffer.”

Regarding what happened in overtime, the Monaco coach said; “it’s the way we finish games, we give the ball to one of our creators to score or make the right decision. Yes, maybe we could have gone for free throws, but everyone can easily say what to do afterwards.”

Motiejunas refuted the criticism of the team, disputing that they no longer played collectively in overtime, but speculated on individual actions; “that’s our approach to basketball, we win like this and we lose like this. I’m not here to question that, I’m trying to do my job as best I can and help the team.”

Still, Motiejunas was himself critical of his team’s performance this season, and sees the elimination as a warning for the battle for the French title; “If you look at our season, we haven’t managed to win a single title. There are a lot of teams that we didn’t take seriously. And tonight is karma. So, we haven’t achieved a single one of our goals yet. It’s painful. I hope the team will refocus and understand that there is only one title you can win.”

As a consolation for the Monegasques, Spanish side Barcelona also lost the fifth match to Greek side Olympiakos in front of their home crowd. Real Madrid will defend its title in Berlin against Olympiakos, a repeat of last year’s final, while Fenerbahçe will play Panathinaikos for the other spot in the final round.

Featured image courtesy of @ASMonaco_Basket on X: Roca Team coach Sasa Obradovic and Co