AS Salé knew beforehand that the best way to beat SLAC was making Marcus Crawford uncomfortable and play smart offensively to keep their Basketball Africa League (BAL) Sahara Conference hopes alive. They did that and they prevailed 91-81.
Crawford, who was the engine of SLAC ‘s offense for most of the Sahara Conference, fouled out of the game in the third quarter, and the Guinean champions could never find answers to his absence.
Even so, Crawford finished with team-high 19 points and six assists, Dane Miller Jr. had 17 points, Serigne Mbaye contributed 13 points, but the night belonged to the Moroccan champions.
Terrel Stoglin paced AS Salé with a game-high 29 points, Abdoulaye Harouna scored 12 of his 25 points from behind the arc, and Alvaro Masa contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds in the winning cause.
At halftime, SLAC had more offensive rebounds (18) than AS Sale’s 17.
Despite SLAC’s aggressiveness in the paint, the two teams headed to the locker room tied 40-40.
“This was a huge for us because it shows that, even when we are not playing well, we still have an ability to win a game,” said AS Sale Head Coach Liz Mills.
“As a coach, that’s really, really reassuring. The ability for this team to pull this win out of the bag was really impressive.”
The Australian tactician went on saying: “It is a very important win for AS Salé, we still have one more game and one more win. I think we are qualified, but it depends where we finish and that’s why the win tomorrow is just as important.”
Khalid Boukichou added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists for AS Salé.
He said: “This is really big for us. We had a meeting yesterday, where everybody had to say what they think because as a group we have the same objective to go through to the next round. Tonight we showed that our team is getting together is playing like a real team.
“We focused on their three-point shooting. We took Crawford out of the game. Their coach got mad, we knew that they would be out of focus. We stayed locked in, we didn’t complain that much and it paid off.
“We have Stoglin who is probably the most talented player in this competition; we have Harouna who can score really easily and we have Masa who is a fighter, if you leave him he makes you pay for it. We have talent on this team, that’s why chemistry is key for us.”
Mohamed Keita finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds – his first BAL double-double. He admitted that playing without Crawford hurt the team when they least expected.
“It was really difficult for us. We had some key players in foul trouble. It was very difficult when Chris [Crawford] fouled out. We started to lose control of the game.”
SLAC have finished their Sahara Conference with a 2-3.
Keita said the next 24 hours will be all about “praying, praying and praying for other results come our way and get qualified for Kigali.”
In the last games of the Sahara Conference, AS Salé (2-2) will play Dakar Universite Club (1-3) while Ferroviário da Beira (1-3) will go against Rwanda Energy Group (3-1).
Pitchou Manga came up with his best performance in the Sahara Conference on Monday to help Rwanda Energy Group (REG) cause the biggest upset in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) so far.
His 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks sparked the Rwandan champions who ended US Monastir’s four-game winning streak in the 77-74 upset.
REG trailed for most of the first three quarters, but when Axel Moyo hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer to give the Kigali-based team a 56-55 lead heading into the fourth quarter, things were never the same again for Monastir.
And to make matters worse for the Tunisian champions, REG opened the final quarter with a 7-0 run for a 63-55 lead – their biggest lead in the game.
Mokhtar Ghayaza and Michael Dixon responded with one three-pointer each to cut the gap to 63-61, but REG never panicked even though Monastir tied the game at 67-all with 4:25 minutes left.
The next four minutes belonged to Manga who scored six straight points before fouling out with 40 seconds remaining.
Dieudonne Ndizeye backed Manga with 15 points, Cleveland Thomas Jr. added 12 for REG, who despite playing the majority of the game without Anthony Walker who picked his third foul in the first quarter, maintained their composure.
“It was a big challenge,” said REG Head Coach Robert Pack.
With the win, REG improved to 3-1 with one game left.
For Pack, who had limited time to prepare for the Sahara Conference, the win was special: “As a coach you want as much time as you can to prepare. We had five practices before my first game. Trying to create chemistry, trying to create a bond with these guys, to be able to win a game like this, it was very important for us. It was a tough challenge, but it was one that I was willing to ready to step up to, and I am glad that we got we got the win tonight.”
Throughout the game, Pack was at times seen trying push Manga for mistakes that he made. “He’s been like that all the tournament. We have been trying to establish him. He is a big body. We are trying to get him the ball, and tonight he was very aggressive with his post-ups. After the first quarter he started finishing, and that’s what we want him to do. We have some good perimeter players, we really want him to have the ability to play inside, and tonight Pitchou was able to give us what we have been looking for. He played a great game.”
Mpoyo revealed that his contribution off the bench was long overdue. “I’ve always had that energy,” he said.
“I just needed to come out of the bench and do the little things, rebounding and take shots,” added Mpoyo who was 3-for-7 from behind the arc to finish with 9 points.
“This win says that we are going in the right direction. They are a really good team. We knew it was going to be a fight,” the Rwandan international player pointed out.
Radhouane Slimane and Ater Majok played on foul limit for most of the last quarter, but were to finish the game.
“We had some injured players, and we had to sacrifice. We are experienced enough to know how to react in certain situations,” said Slimane who contributed 19 points for Monastir.
Majok finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds and Michael Dixon led all players in scoring with 23 points.
“We made some mistakes, but some things in this game were out of our control,” Slimane stressed.
“They are a good team, maybe we’re going to play each other in Kigali.”
US Monastir concluded their Sahara Conference with a 4-1 mark, while REG will return to the court on Tuesday on Ferroviario da Beira.