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May 12, 2024

“Togetherness won us the playoffs ticket,” says Firas Lahyani

US Monastir made a historic comeback in the league’s history. The Tunisian champion became the first team to fight a 0-3 deficit in a BAL season to qualify for the playoffs with a 3-3 record.

Monastir beat Rivers Hoopers 73-62 on Sunday evening to clinch a spot in the postseason since their championship season in 2022.

After losing their first three games in the conference, US Monastir beat every team they lost to in the first round finishing 3-3..

The 2022 BAL winners entered Sunday’s clash against Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers needing a win to extend their season into the postseason in Kigali Rwanda.

From the jump ball to the final buzzer, the Tunisian champions outclassed the Hoopers, a team they lost to by 21 points (84-63) in the first round.

US Monastir led by as many as 18 points early in the fourth quarter before closing their conference with a three-game winning streak.

Chris Crawford and Ater Majok set the tone, leading US Monastir with 21 and 18 points, respectively. Majok recorded his first double-double of the season..

Already qualified to the next round, the Hoopers stepped on the floor without sharpshooter Will Perry, who played a major role in the Hoopers’ qualification.

“Togetherness won us the playoffs ticket,” said an elated Firas Lahyani who finished with 7 points and 11 rebounds.

“We needed time to build our team cohesion because we started our BAL preparation late. Now, we go back to the drawing board and prepare for the playoffs, which will be even more demanding.”

Lahyani also dubbed ’Air Tunisia”, for his impressive athleticism, noted that losing their first three games was a tough learning experience.

“We knew we needed to win this game [against Rivers Hoopers], otherwise, we would be eliminated for a secondseason in a row. Here in Dakar.”

Last year, US Monastir were the first BAL reigning champions eliminated in the group phase after losing to AS Douanes 76-60 on the last day of the Sahara Conference.

“That was tough on us,” Lahyani recalled. “I got depressed after losing the first games, but I needed to come back strong.”

He added, “I did everything I possibly could to help the team. We refused to go home early again.”

Kelvin Amayo and Devine, the only Hoopers players to score in double digits, finished with 10 and 13 points, respectively.

Peter Olisemeka came up with another solid performance, finishing with 8 points 10 rebounds.

Rivers Hoopers are the first Nigerian team to qualify to the playoffs..