By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Cholet in its first Basketball Champions League campaign started with three straight defeats on the road. Down 0-3, the French club, no stranger to European club continental competitions, took down a BCL regular in AEK Tuesday revamping its playoffs bid in convincing fashion.
“We needed wins in all three remaining games to have a chance to advance to the next round,” said Vafessa Fofana talking to reporters after the Regular Season Gameday 7 contest, “This could be our chance.”
Still behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions implemented and with the domestic league, Jeep Elite Pro A, remaining in emergency status featuring very limited action in recent months, a massive BCL home debut largely influenced by Fofana, a member of the Ivory Coast national team and participant in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He went for 22 points, six rebounds, and one assist in 30 minutes.
Tsmoki-Minsk on January 5 and Hapoel Holon on January 20 are the next teams scheduled to visit Cholet currently sitting at 1-3. Two more home wins to follow up the triumph versus AEK can not be enough, as admitted by emblematic head coach Erman Kunter.
“This was a very important game for us,” he mentioned stressing the fact that a loss would all but eliminate his side, “We have two more games to play at home. We will do our best to win these two games but we also depend on the other results.”
Even staying alive under these circumstances can easily be considered a success. The French outlet has been constantly hit by positive coronavirus tests throughout the season, including Fofana, who recovered to bring in the largest contribution against the Queen, 2018 BCL champion and 2020 finalist.
“We have nothing to lose right now. We have to be at 100% to continue winning,” pointed out the French-Ivorian forward, “This was certainly a good win against the top team of our group. We stayed focus. We stayed on the same page and reduced our mistakes during the game.”
Fofana, 28, has spent most of his career in France’s second-tier division. Attached to the under-21 squad of Cholet, he introduced himself as a professional and in 2019 returned to his first club. He has since established himself as a force to be reckoned with at a higher level but was sidelined for a long stretch of the ongoing 2020-21 season after being found positive for coronavirus.
Being isolated and away from basketball definitely held him back, sadly a common situation in these challenging times for the basketball world and of course beyond. At the same time, a feel-good story with him producing a season-high scoring showing. He was nearly perfect inside the paint ending up with 8/9 twos and adding 2/4 threes on his solid outing.
Cholet suiting up ten players and Kunter ultimately held at an eight-man rotation in the latest Champions League affair needs everything it can get from the available players moving forward and hoping to extend its return to European competitions into the next group stage of the season.
Two more home wins would sum up a 3-3 Group C finishing tally. AEK has already gathered three wins, while Tsmoki-Minsk and Holon are currently tied with two wins apiece. A tough but certainly not impossible challenge ahead for Fofana and teammates. Defeating AEK got the team right back in the playoffs race.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League