LFB Challenge Round finalists are teams from the bottom half of the table
The final of the LFB Challenge round will bring together two teams that finished in the bottom half of the table at the end of the regular season. Tarbes finished in 10th place during the regular season. They have a good chance of rescuing a season that started badly with a place in Europe next season. They held their nerve in the final period to hold off a late challenge by Aix-en-Provence.
Clermont-Ferrand completed the double over Challes-les-Eaux to book their ticket for the final.
Tarbes are two games away from European qualification
Both sides started the game cautiously and after almost three minutes of the play the teams were still level (4-4). After the calm came the storm. Liz Moeggenberg hit a trey for Tarbes which was soon followed by a basket by Gisela Vega. Tarbes had their first advantage in the match (9-4).
Erik Lehmann, the Aix-en- Provence head coach, called for a time-out. Soon after Yacine Sene started the Aix revival with a jumper. Moeggenberg responded almost immediately with a trey to extend her side’s lead (12-6).
Sene was on hand once more for Aix, this time with a three-pointer. Tarbes were in no mood to surrender their advantage and Clémence Beikes came up with a score. Tarbes’ joy did not last long as K. B. Sharp hit one from the land of many. Then Stéphanie Beuzelin completed Aix’ recovery as she tied the match (14-14) just before the end of the first period.
Both teams reverted back to caution at the start of the second quarter with very little scoring. Tarbes regained and then maintained the lead throughout from (18-14). The pace of the game quickened and Aix, forced to chase the game, started to take risks. However Tarbes maintained their advantage (22-18).
Kristen Mann and Vega (left) started to pound the Aix defense. By the end of the second period Tarbes’ advantage had grown (31-20).
Immediately after the interval Aix threw all caution to the wind and were rewarded with consecutive three-pointers by Sene and Beuzelin. Moeggenberg ended the Aix challenge and started a 7-0 run for Tarbes. Anda Jekabsone hit 5 quick points. Unfortunately she then fouled out of the game with 1:40 left to play in the third period. Tarbes took advantage of her departure to recover the points lost to go into the final period with a substantial lead (53-38).
Mann started the final period with a bang as she hit a three-pointer for Tarbes. However Aix had no intention of abdicating. They were looking more assured as they started to find their way to the basket. Yet Moeggenberg put an end to Tarbes’ jitters by scoring to put a temporary halt to the Aix onslaught (60-45).
With five minutes left to play Sharp started to run the show. Eventually Aix reduced their deficit to 6 points after Sene (left) hit her third trey of the evening (60-66). The last minute was hectic and neither side was able to find the basket. Aix’ best chance came from the free-throw line but Liad Suez-Karni was not able to convert.
Laure Savasta ended the contest with a trey for Tarbes (69-60). With this victory Tarbes have qualified for the LFB Challenge Round final.
Mann led the scoring with 18 points and was joined in double digits by Moeggenberg and Vega with 16 and 15 points apiece. Sene was the top scorer for Aix with 16 points. Sharp scored 12 while Jekabson contributed 10 points.
In the other semi-final Clermont-Ferrand came from behind to beat Challes-les-Eaux in a pulsating final period. Claudia Das Neves (in picture)led the scoring for Clermont with 25 points including 4-of-7 from behind the arc.
Challes-les-Eaux had made up their initial handicap of 8 points by the end of the first quarter (31-23) with the regular season MVP Martina Luptakova leading the way by shooting 100% from the field.
Clermont started the second period with a 7-0 run to reduce their deficit to a single point before dropping off the pace allowing the host to go into the interval (47-37) with a 2-point aggregate score lead.
Challes, without Chandi Jones, had only six players on active duty. With players in foul problems they were unable to hold off their guests and by the end of the third period had lost the aggregate lead although leading the game (64-58).
In the end fatigue and foul problems put an end to Challes’ bid for the final. Clermont eventually took the lead to win the game (78-75) and the series to book their ticket for the LFB Challenge Round final against Tarbes.
Marlous Nieuwveen hit a game high 25 points in a losing cause and was joined in the twenties by Luptakova with 20 points.