by Dominique Faurie
Ten years after her first victory in a Final Four, Bourges forward Cathy Melain is back for a seventh Final Four.
And the 32 year old is enjoying the moment.
“It’s a real satisfaction,” she said.
“It's the feeling that the job has been done. Year after year, it’s getting more and more difficult to qualify for the Final Four.”
Melain’s has had her share of Final Four experiences.
|Catherine Melain has been a solid defensive player for Bourges.|
The most memorable came in Messina back in 2001. The final is 100% French as US Valenciennes is leading Bourges in the waning moments of the title game.
With a few seconds remaining, Melain receives a pass from half court and drives in to score the winning basket.
“I saw her scoring the final basket,” recalled Yannick Souvré, the Bourges captain.
“It was such a skilled play. It capped a memorable season for us and it was an incredible feeling for our team.”
Melain also suffered disappointment, making Bourges’ current Final Four berth all the more special.
Last year In the quarter-finals, Gambrinus Brno and Bourges came down to a decisive third game played in France.
Melain had a chance to score the winning basket, but her shot rimmed out. Bourges was eliminated from the EuroLeague Women, while Brno went on to claim the title.
Melain and Co. also tasted bitter defeat in the 2003 Final Four, played on Bourges’ home court. They finished fourth, and following the season, Melain packed her bags and suited up for Venezia. Two years later, she re-joined Bourges with a new goal in mind.
“It was my desire to play again in EuroLeague, and again in Final Four,” she said.
This year, with a new team, Melain made this objective a realisation.
“It’s a surprise for me,” explained the best European player in 2001.
|Melain hung up her national team jersey after EuroBasket Women 2005.|
“We had to change a lot of things, and we didn’t know at all, before the beginning of the season, what we could expect.”
The answer is beautiful. With an iron defense led by Melain, Bourges overcame Mondeville and Vilnius in Eighth and Quarter-finals.
The French side even beat perennial powers CSKA Volgaburmash in the opening round.
Four years after her last Final Four, Melain has less pressure with a different role. She’s less needed for scoring (8.4 ppg on less than 36% shooting).
She’s no more the lethal and clutch scorer, but she can still put points on the board. But just as importantly, Melain can do all the others things so we that helps team’s win, such as rebounding and assists.
And there is no price for her charismatic leadership on the court and particularly on the defensive end.
Now comes Valencia, and Laïa Palau, Melain's former teammate.
“They probably play more together than Moscow or Samara. Anyway, we have to meet a big opponent. We’ll see.”
As for Melain’s future, only time will tell. Melain retired from Les Bleues, and won’t come back despite the arrival of her friend Jacky Commères as the head of the French team. Her new objective from a club standpoint is yet to be decided.
“I still don’t know, I’ll see,” she said referring to her future.
All the more reason why Melain will savour her seventh Final Four appearance.