Abidjan Basket Club (ABC) stunned the BAL reigning champions US Monastir on Friday to boost their chances of qualifying for the playoffs in May in Kigali.
Few expected BAL debutant ABC to beat US Monastir 90-74, but the Ivorian champions didn’t look at numbers or historical facts to cause the biggest upset in the Sahara Conference so far.
Liz Mills, the first woman to coach in the BAL, acknowledged that her players did their homework.
“Credit to the team that did a good job executing the game plan,” said Mills who is in her second BAL season.
“They did their homework, they did their scouting, especially after that [lost] REG game when we felt that we really lost that game rather they beat us. They bounced back and played the way they did, it’s credit to the team.”
With the win, ABC ended US Monastir’s BAL five-game winning streak which lasted since March 2022.
“We know that on any given day if we play like that, we’ll beat any single team in the BAL,” Mills added.
Abdoulaye Harouna inspired ABC with his game-high of 33 points; Mike Fofana made 4 of his 7 three-pointers to finish with 18 points and Stephane Konate contributed 15 in the winning cause.
It was a game that ABC desperately needed to win, and leading 41-36 at the break reflected Mills’ team’s desperation mode.
Two nights ago, Monastir trailed Kwara Falcons at the break, but managed to turn the score around. However, ABC’s scouting report on the defending champions proved vital.
“Tough one. Monastir is the team to beat. It’s very (tough) to be in this position,” said US Monastir forward Ibrahima Thomas who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“We started the game well, but somehow they made a run and we couldn’t recover from it,” Thomas admitted, noting that US Monastir are now turning their focus to the remaining two games.
“We just need to go to the drawing board and make sure we learn from our mistakes, and try to win the next two games,” the Senegalese explained.
Harouna was ABC’s inspiring figure for most of the game.
The Nigerien opened the score with a mid-range jumper before Thomas responded with a three-pointer.
It was an evenly-matched encounter for most of the first three quarters, but when Fofana hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer that extended ABC’s lead to 58-54 at the end of the third, Monastir looked helpless.
Fofana’s three-pointer that gave ABC a 61-54 advantage hurt Monastir even more.
Things were moving from bad to worse for Monastir, and when Radhouane Slimane picked up his fourth foul with 8:30 minutes left and Monastir trailed 63-55, ABC looked in control of their destiny.
Even when Slimane returned for the remaining two minutes of the game, he only lasted 30 seconds before fouling out with 1.30 minutes left.
Technical fouls to Jerome Randle, coach Modrag Perisic; 22 turnovers, poor free-throw shooting (13-for-19) marked Monastir’s first defeat this BAL season.
“We needed this win to get closer to the qualification,” Harouna said. “It was big for us. And doing it against the defending champions was even better. That’s a good team win.”