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Basketball - 07. February 2008.

French Basketball Update

There has been a lot of movement in the French League since round nine:

Bourges are the only team with a perfect record and are three games clear at
the top of the regular season's standings. They also confirmed their
improvement in Europe with a road victory against UMMC Ekaterinburg as they
moved from last place to second in their group.

Montpellier are hot on Bourges' heals as they are in second place and are
currently on a nine-game winning streak. Montpellier's rise is mainly due
to the return of all their players from the injured list. Since her return
to action Gunta Basko, one of the injured players, list has been in imperial
form and now leads the scoring statistics. The only disappointment for
Montpellier was the elimination for EuroCup in the first round of the
knock-out stage.

It is never easy to change 80% of the team and simultaneously change the
coaching structure. The proof of how difficult it can be is well illustrated
by USVO this season. They have had a roller coaster ride in Europe and
domestically they are three games down on Bourges. After conceding a heavy
defeat to Bourges Hérve Coudray was subject to embarrassment as his former
team Mondeville came to Valenciennes and worked away with a victory. The
third defeat came at the hands of Reims as USVO failed to finish the game
off after leading comfortably at half time. USVO have been regular season
champions for the last seven seasons. Now they will require other clubs to
beat Bourges if they hope to make it an eighth regular season championship

Mondeville may be out of EuroLeague but their three-point shooting was one
of the highlights of the group stage. They are currently fourth in the
domestic standings and are looking good to qualify for the championship
play-off. They have lost Caroline Aubert who has joined Ekaterinburg but
they have acquired the service of Milca Dabovic.

Reims is the club promoted from NF1 last season. They have won their last
four games and lie currently fifth in the table with an 8-8 record. Yet
Saint Amand have a game to play and could displace Reims from this position.

Reims are difficult to beat at home, so their victory against USVO, although

historical, is not surprising. Zuzanna Klimesova is the best known player
internationally in this team and her unselfish work off the ball has enabled
other players to flourish as the team move slowly away from the relegation

Clermont-Ferrand started the season well but have fallen off the pace
recently and do not appear to have the roster depth to challenge anymore for a top 4 finish but should still expect to finish in the top half of the table.

Challes-les-Eaux' European adventure has cost them a lot of energy. They
are one of the most exciting teams in the League. They have been on the
wrong end of some close games lately which has resulted in them dropping
down the table. Tiffany Jackson's absence due to injury has not helped
matter. They have just signed Desire Wheeler, "Dee Dee", as medical cover
for Slavka Frniakova. Jessica Davenport and Martina Luptakova are both
playing well and if the team can start to win the close games they should
move up the table.

Saint Amand have been the second surprise of the season. They are aggressive
and play well as a unit. If they win their outstanding game they will move
into fifth place in the table. They have one of the most homogenous rosters
in the league with the scoring shared between five players.

Villeneuve d'Ascq have been unlucky with injuries all season and have not
been able to play to their potential maximum. The EuroLeague experience has
been useful but they are currently three games behind Mondeville which makes
the domestic championship play-off qualification difficult.

Currently the following teams are seriously involved in the relegation
battle. It is mathematically impossible for any of these teams to catch
Bourges with 10 rounds remaining:

Tarbes are on their third head coach for the season with François Gomis.
Isabelle Yacoubou is back after three months off and Fatima Silva has joined
the team. With the way French rules are, the arrival of Silva means with the
reinsertion of Yacoubou that the Bulgarian youth international, Jaklin
Zlatonova, will not be able to play in domestic games. Tarbes are still
involved in the EuroCup, but have a 20-point deficit to make up if they hope
to qualify for the quarter-finals.

With four straight defeats Calais is back in the relegation zone. This is a
club that have been involved in numerous relegation battles in the last few
seasons and ironically are better prepared for the battle in the next few
weeks then some of their direct opponents.

Aix-en-Provence have had what can be described a bizarre season. They signed
Nathalie Lesdema as medical cover at the beginning of the season. She was
the team's leading scorer but once her contract expired mid-December she
was unable to play in their last game of 2007. Kelly Santos had already been
released and her replacement Syril Baker was also released.

Anda Jekabsone is finally back and yesterday, herself and K. B. Sharp led
Aix to an important victory against Saint Amand. They are now tied with Tarbes and Calais with a 5-11 record and will have Anastasia Kostaki on
board for the final matches.

Arras started the season well but won on the 1st December for the last time.

A series of eight defeats has seen them fall to 13th place. Elzbieta Miedzik
joined the club in January from Dexia Numur and they have just signed Arina

Mourenx are bottom of the league with only two victories. The club decided
to let their coach, Pascal Delaliaux, go and promote Aurélie Lopez into the
position. They have also brought in Enjoli Izidor as medical cover for Penda
Sy. Mourenx have armour in the form of Ana Lelas, Kaayla Chomes and Polina
Tzekova. Mourenx now just need to start winning games.


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