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Basketball - 22. May 2007.

FRA - USVO regain french title

VALENCIENNES (Ligue Feminine) - USVO Valenciennes claimed the French title back off Bourges after completing a 2-0 series victory over their arch rivals in the Ligue Feminine play-off finals.

The northerners on Friday added a 70-61 home success to their 64-55 away victory two days earlier to earn the national crown for a seventh time.

It was the perfect send-off for USVO coach Laurent Buffard and their two leading players, Sandrine Gruda and Kristi Harrower, all three of whom are joining Russian giants UMMC Ekaterinburg in the close season.

The star of the show in the second leg was Emilie Gomis, the 23-year-old guard who poured in a game-high 20 points.

Australia international Harrower chipped in with 14 points and six assists, while Gruda had 11 points and seven rebounds.

USVO were 35-28 ahead at half-time but Bourges had narrowed the gap to four points (49-45) by the start of the fourth quarter.

Bourges, still without injured playmaker Celine Dumerc, could not close the gap further and USVO pulled away late on to seal their sixth title in seven years.

It means both USVO and Bourges, who claimed the French championship last year after beating Buffard's team in the finals, have now won seven titles each in their history.

"At a time when I am quitting, it is the best present the players can give me and the public," said Buffard, who has won 17 trophies during his time at USVO.

"What makes it all the better is that we really had to fight for this title. Well done to Bourges for having played such a good final."

Bourges, who lost to USVO in the Coupe de France final on Sunday, finish the season with just the Tournoi de la Federation trophy in their cabinet.

Given the fact they came into the campaign with a squad 80% different to last year, they have exceeded expectations, especially after they made it through to the Final Four in EuroLeague Women.

On Friday, Endene Miyem stood out by scoring 14 points, while former France international Cathy Melain had a strong all-round match, netting 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

"We gave our all," said Bourges coach Pierre Vincent, whose side won the treble last season.
"I am proud of what the girls have done. They have progressed with each match."

Steve Douglas

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