EUROCHALLENGE FINAL FOUR
Fans that turn out for Friday's clash between Elan Chalon and Triumph Lyubertsy are in for a real treat.
Chalon, last season's Coupe de France winners, have an opportunity to do something that would make them one of the all-time great success stories.
Gregor Beugnot's team has a chance to win four trophies, with a Semaine des As triumph already in the bag.
They are also dreaming about glorious finishes in the EuroChallenge, the French domestic league and the French Cup (Coupe de France).
Chalon punched their ticket to the Coupe de France Final on Tuesday night with an 83-79 victory over Cholet.
Triumph Lyubertsy, meanwhile, are red hot and boasting one of the most exciting teams on the continent.
The players are competing not only for themselves and the club, but for Russia.
Among their young talents are Sergey Karasev, Dmitry Kulagin and Evgeny Valiev.
"They are the future of Russia's national team," coach Vasily Karasev said after the team punched its Final Four ticket with a 2-1 series victory over Mad-Croc Fuenlabrada.
Vasily Karasev should know what he is talking about since he was a leading Russia national team player himself.
He is the father of Sergey, Karasev.
In fact, Vasily was still listed as a player when Triumph had their last appearance in the EuroChallenge Final Four in Bologna in 2009 but did not get to play.
Vasily Karasev says a lot is at stake this weekend.
"Ahead of us is an important event - not only for our club but also for Russia," he said.
Season So Far
• Elan Chalon had hoped to play in the Eurocup but after winning the first leg of their Qualifying Round tie against Cedevita Zagreb on 27 September, 78-73, Beugnot's team travelled to Croatia the following week and fell 84-69. That left Chalon in the EuroChallenge and they have shown on numerous occasions that they could be the team to beat. The French outfit won 10 of its 14 games in the competition, with their three-point shooting a real weapon. The team has buried 128 of 323 attempts for an impressive 39.6% - fourth best in the competition. Chalon rank third in free-throw shooting 77.7%. Other reasons for the team's success has been the players' willingness to share the ball, with an average of 18.6 assists per game that is second best in the EuroChallenge, and defensive pressure. Chalon's 8.1 steals per game are second to none.
• Triumph Lyubertsy's run to the EuroChallenge Final Four is not what many people expected. They had to win a Qualifying Round tie against fellow Russian outfit Krasnye Krylia Samara just to make the Regular Season of the competition. With their coach, Valdamaras Chomicius, having had to hit the sidelines with health problems, the team appeared to be going out of the competition after three consecutive defeats to open Last 16 play, but they bounced back with three straight wins and then surprised Fuenlabrada in the Quarter-Finals. In that 2-1 victory over the Spaniards, the two victories came on the road. What they have done very well this season has been rebound the basketball on both ends of the floor. The Russian team's 10.5 per game is number one in the competition, as is their average of 36.4 per contest.
The Hot Hand
|18-year-old sensation Sergey Karasev has a great shot from outside but can also explode to the basket for Triumph Lyubertsy|
• Ilian Evtimov has buried 42 of 88 (47.7%) shots from long range this season for Chalon, which ranked him eighth in the competition. What is interesting for Chalon is that the man that is often on the floor when Evtimov is not is young France international Nicolas Lang, and he ranks fourth in the EuroChallenge at 48.9% after making 22 of 45 attempts. Chalon have numerous players that can hit the three-ball, in fact. One of them is the explosive Malcolm Delaney, who has shot 42% (29 of 69).
• Sergey Karasev's performances for Triumph have belied his youth. The 18-year-old has shot 35.8% (24 of 67) from behind the arc. In their important Last 16 victory over Artland Dragons that helped them reach the Quarter-Finals, Karasev hit six of seven from behind the arc. He has averaged 11.9 points per game.
• Abdul Aminu is a potential game-winner for Chalon, as he showed during the EuroChallenge and also on Tuesday night when pouring in 20 points to lead the club past Cholet and into the Coupe de France Final. The 2.07m center must do something else against Triumph, though, and that is be combative on the boards. He is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game. His biggest task will be to limit the contributions of the outstanding Triumph big man Jerry Jefferson (14.7pts, 7.6rbs).
• Kyle Landry is one of the more underrated big men in the EuroChallenge. When healthy, he's been a handful. In the three wins over Fuenlabrada, the Canada international scored 16, 13 and 14 points. Landry can also go outside, where he has drilled 13 three-pointers this season.
Chalon's Blake Schilb (17pts, 3.4rbs, 4.9ass) v Artem Kuzyakin of Triumph (10.5pts, 1.7rbs, 0.5ass)