|Lamayn Wilson, seen here playing for Krasnye Krylia, has an immediate impact for new club for Cholet Basket, chipping in with 10 points in their Pro A win at the weekend|
EuroChallenge participants Cholet Basket claimed their third win in a row in the French Pro A at the weekend, 80-68 against Le Havre at home, and continue unbeaten at the pursuit of league leaders Nanterre (4-0).
A three-game winning streak at the start of a regular season that comprises of thirty games is hardly a reason to uncork the champagne, but its importance to Cholet can not be underestimated.
The EuroChallenge side are now full of confidence and have the unusual luxury of nine days rest, to plan and prepare for the most testing six-day stretch of their domestic campaign prior to the winter break.
On Monday 28 October Cholet will travel to league runners-up Strasbourg and then they will play host to reigning champions Nanterre just before their EuroChallenge opener, against Kataja Basket in Finland.
The victory against Le Havre has given Jean-Manuel Sousa's team some important piece of mind, in the sense that even if they lose both encounters against the duo that represent France in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, their start to the season will still not be as bad as last year, when they just missed out on the play-offs in a four-team tie.
Last season, Cholet won two of their first four Pro A games and continued their campaign along the same lines, finishing the regular season with a 15-15 record.
To secure their third victory in as many games on Saturday, Cholet came up with their best defensive display so far during the first half and big man Claude Marquis poured in 12 early points for the hosts to grab a 19-point lead over Le Havre, 43-24, at the half-time buzzer.
Cholet maintained the cushion at roughly the same levels throughout the third period and although the guests started off the final frame with a 7-0 run, some big plays by John Cox, who had nine points and a game-high five assists, ensured Le Havre's comeback attempt would fall short of threatening the hosts.
Marquis finished with a team-high 18 points along with six rebounds whilst point guard Terrell Stoglin added 11 points and five rebounds and Lamayn Wilson chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"It was not easy, it's never easy," Cholet small forward Lamine Kanté said.
"Right now we are happy, and if we beat Strasbourg it will be a very good start to the season."
Cholet, who won the French title in 2010 and reached the play-off finals in 2011, had tipped off their season with an 85-75 win over the other French club that takes part in the EuroChallenge, JDA Dijon.
Dijon bounced back from that defeat with two consecutive victories, the second one coming on the road on Saturday.
They pulled away in the final frame and prevailed 65-57 against last season's Pro A Regular Season winners, BCM Gravelines-Dunkerque.
Dijon got a solid performance from young center Ferdinand Prénom, who finished with 15 points on seven-for-nine shooting from the floor and added eight rebounds, while Andre Harris chipped in with 14 points and five rebounds for the winners.
Dijon play host to Belgian side Port of Antwerp Giants on the premiere night of EuroChallenge Group A action.
REGGIO EMILIA DOWN CHAMPIONS
|Andrea Cinciarini's (left) shooting from the floor was integral in Reggio Emilia's win at the weekend|
The Italian club that participates in the EuroChallenge, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, claimed their first victory in the Serie A on Saturday and did so in style, defeating reigning champions Montepaschi Siena 67-59 at home.
Reggio Emilia took a 22-10 lead at the end of the first quarter and managed to hold on the rest of the way, on the back of a 22-point display by guard Troy Bell, who also added six rebounds.
Italian international Andrea Cinciarini also played a key role for the hosts as he scored 11 points on five-for-seven shooting from the floor, whilst Latvian U20 forward Ojars Silins was given a big confidence boost with a spot in the starting five.
Reggio Emilia are playing their inaugural EuroChallenge game on 5 November against Okapi Aalstar, who at the weekend slumped to their first defeat after three games in the Belgian Ethias League.
Okapi had a poor start to their encounter at home with Leuven Bears, found themselves trailing by 14 points early on and eventually lost 93-89.
The two other teams that were drawn in EuroChallenge Regular Season Group E, were both victorious in domestic action at the weekend.
Team Teho Sport Kotka (KTP) cruised to an easy 95-65 win over Namika Lappeenranta on the road and improved to 4-1 in the Finnish Korisliiga standings.
GasTerra Flames Groningen meanwhile, who were also in action on the road, built a comfy double-digit lead against Wijchen during the third quarter but had to hold on in a dramatic finish to secure a 63-60 win.
Groningen had seen their advantage reduced to just four points going into the final minute and were called for a technical foul, but Wijchen split their free throws and then turned the ball over, enabling Cashmere Wright to score the basket that ensured Groningen's triumph.
Wright and Quentin Pryor finished with 12 points apiece for the winners and Jeff Robinson finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.