By Jeff Taylor
|Justin Cage says Dexia Mons-Hainaut had to overcome not only the enormous hurdle of Besiktas but also a ghost from the past - the American guard cannot wait to finally get his first taste of the Eurocup|
Dexia Mons-Hainaut have finally gotten rid of the ghost of Valencia.
On October 27, 2009, Valencia hit back from a 15-point first-leg deficit in the Eurocup Qualifying Round tie and beat Dexia, 79-61.
While there were celebrations for La Taronja in La Fonteta, there was only agony for the players from Mons.
Dexia workhorse Justin Cage will never forget that disappointment.
"I remember we had a good lead when we went there and had an opportunity to play at a higher level (in the Eurocup), but Valencia was a really great team," Cage said to Basketball World News.
"We were tied at the end of the game and had to go to overtime and it was really tough to hold on to the lead we had."
Cage says it was one of his biggest losses as a basketball player.
"Everyone wants to play at a higher level and to just fall short, it disappoints you as a competitor," he said
Two years later and Cage isn't disappointed, but elated.
Dexia hosted the second leg of a Eurocup Qualifying Round tie against Besiktas on Tuesday.
After falling 78-70 in the first leg in Istanbul, Dexia won 74-63.
Dexia's fans poured onto the court to celebrate with the players, just as Valencia supporters had done two years ago.
"It (Eurocup) will be the highest level that I've ever played in," Cage said.
The two-legged tie with the Turkish powerhouse also brought back memories of last year's qualifier to Dexia General Manager Thierry Wilquin.
"We were thinking about that (Valencia) situation before the second game against Besiktas," Wilquin said.
"It's not only about winning one game to qualify, but winning over two games to prove you are better than the opponent.
"I think right after the draw in Barcelona, nobody - including myself - would have spent any money on Mons."
Besiktas had been favorites.
They brought in big-name players like Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets, a guard who was willing to play in Turkey during the NBA lockout.
"We had a lot of respect for him, and know what he's done in the United States," Cage said.
"But when you get on the court, everyone is equal.
"We're all competing for the win and you can't back down. It's a team game."
Wilquin says a lot can be learned from his team's two-legged showdown with Besiktas.
"Money can for sure help to make a better team, but money isn't everything," he said.
"You can have a lot of other values in sport and mainly in basketball which is a collective, team sport.
"Even if you have very good individuals, it doesn't mean everything. On the court you have to prove you have the best team."
Dexia Mons Hainaut's Alex Libert, who was also in the squad that lost at Valencia, said he's was thrilled to play in the Eurocup Qualifying Round.
"When you play in Valencia, or against Besiktas like we did on Tuesday, it's the type of game you want to play in your whole life," he said.
"I think we did good in the two games against Besiktas to qualify. Against Valencia, we lost in overtime.
"But we have proved against these teams with bigger budgets that we can do it."