BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Aix-en-Provence head coach Bruno Blier was surprised and pleased in equal measure by the performance his team produced in the victory over powerhouse Bourges |
This marks the tenth season since one of the great moments in the history of Aix-en-Provence, a French basketball club that has struggled to mount much of a challenge in recent seasons.
In the 2002-03 campaign, locals will fondly remember that Aix-en-Provence won the FIBA EuroCup for Women.
After scraping a 72-70 triumph over Ano Liosia Basketball in the Semi-Finals, the team defeated Caja Rural 80-71 in the Final.
RaLucienne Berthieu had a dream Final, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and coming up with five steals.
The 1.88m Berthieu had been a member of France's national team at the 2002 FIBA World Championship for Women in China.
Aix-en-Provence had some solid seasons to follow, including a Semi-Final appearance in the French play-offs in 2006, the same year they finished runners-up in the EuroCup Women to a star-studded Sparta&K Moscow Region side that included American great Lisa Leslie.
In recent campaigns, however, the club has struggled.
There is hope that maybe, this is a season when the tide turns for the better.
Aix, coached by Bruno Blier, rolled back the years in their last game by defeating French giants Bourges, 83-79.
Blier was a happy man because his team knocked off one of the traditional powerhouses of the EuroLeague Women.
"We had 44 points at half-time and you don't see that happen often to Bourges," Blier said.
"The bench players did a good job.
"What I liked the most was our intelligence.
|Australian center Kayla Francis led Aix-en-Provence with a double-double in points and rebounds |
"We went about things and got into the game."
Blier was pleased with his side's combative spirit on the boards, too.
Bourges are big and physical and it's not often they come off second best in that department.
"When we won the battle of the rebounds (40-27),it was a good surprise," Blier said.
"I would not have bet on that happening before the game."
Aix have a young squad, although one that has a couple of players from Canada's Olympic team in Shona Thorburn and Lizanne Murphy.
The team also has Australians Marianna Tolo and Cayla Francis.
The 1.92m Francis had game highs in points (19) and rebounds (14), and Tolo finished with 18 and 12.
Most pleasing of all for Blier was the turnout for the game.
The fans showed up to lend their support although some of that, he thinks, had to do with the presence of France's Olympic heroes.
"People who attended the game on Saturday were happy," Blier said to the French Basketball Federation website.
"I hope they come back.
"I saw people who don't usually show up at Pioline (Complexe Sportif de la Pioline) as they came mainly for (Bourge's Olympic star) Celine Dumerc and other silver medalists.
"I hope they stay.
"It is still too early to talk about the revival of Aix but I hope that we'll have a good season, or at least better than last."