US Monastir on Saturday night became the first BAL team to advance to the Basketball Africa League (BAL) quarterfinals by way of an undefeated 3-0 record.
The Tunisian outfit outlasted the 2021 BAL hosts Patriots Basketball with a 91-75 win in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
Lebanon international player Wael Arakji came off the bench to finish with a game-high 28 points on 10--of-11 shooting from the field.
Three other US Monastir scored in double digits, combining for 53 points.
“A lot of credit to Monastir. Their team has been together for four years. It’s a well-coached team. But I love the fight that our guys showed. Unfortunately, we need more minutes to catch them,” Patriots head coach Alan Major said.
US Monastir defeated its first two opponents by an average of 38 points, but the Patriots refused to go down that way.
“I do believe in this squad. We can beat anybody in this tournament,” Major added.
The Monastir-based team closed the opening quarter with a 24-20 lead, before using a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to reach its biggest lead, 14-points, in the first half (34-20).
However, when US Monastir appeared to have taken definite control of the game, Patriots guard Kenneth Gasana had other ideas, rescuing his team with his 10 points and close the gap to just two points (46-44) at halftime.
Wilson Nshobozwa, who established a FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers record for most steals (14) in a game, came off the bench in the second quarter and disrupt US Monastir, but it was a short-lived moment for this year’s BAL hosts.
Patriots forward Brandon Costner, who averaged a team-high 18 points in the first two games, finished the first half with just five points, adding three more in the last twenty minutes of the game for a total of eight points.
The Rwandan champions tried everything they could to stop Monastir’s crusade to another big win, but the Tunisians seemed unimpressed.
Trailing by ten at the end of the third, the Rwandans breathed confidence, but with their two bigs Prince Ibeh and Tom Wamukota fouling out early in the fourth quarter, Monastir intensified its dominance in the paint to increase their lead by as many as 17 points.
“They played a great game today, but we used all our resources to close the game out,” said US Monastir head coach Mounir Ben Slimen.
Now that US Monastir secured a quarterfinals spot, Slimed said that they are “going to put those three wins behind us. Many teams are wanting to beat us. We are going to regroup and prepare for the quarterfinals.”
Numbers don’t lie
US Monastir’s rotation was fundamental as its bench outscored the Patriots’ bench 60-16.