19 September, 2017
02 May, 2018
0 Robert Golden, 3 Josh Bostic | Photo: Luigi Canu
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It's not over until it's over: Le Portel banking on impressive home form to undo the damage

SASSARI (FIBA Europe Cup) - ESSM Le Portel had not lost a game in the FIBA Europe Cup since an early-season slip-up in Groningen back in October, but their incredible campaign in Europe is in risk of coming to a crashing halt. 

After losing the first leg of the Round of 16 tie against Dinamo Sassari with a 72-55 scoreline on the road in Sardinia, the Eric Girard-coached French side now have a 17-point deficit to make up at home.

Their home arena, Le Chaudron, has been an unbreachable fortress in the FIBA Europe Cup this season and only three teams – AS Monaco, SIG Strasbourg and Levallois – have come out victorious from Le Portel in the French Pro A.

However, overturning a double-digit margin against a team like Sassari might not come as easy as steamrolling Bosna by 50 points back in the Regular Season.

"There aren't many words I can say," ESSM forward Jean-Victor Traore told the media after suffering a big setback in Italy. "I'm disappointed. We started well and it should have been a close game. We played well for 30 minutes and we didn't finish the job."

Sassari outscored Le Portel 26-8 in the fourth quarter

Indeed, the French side could have hardly hoped for a better start. Having locked up Dinamo with their trademark defense, the visitors from Le Portel got out to an 18-6 lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 16 points before things started to go downhill in the second half.

"We could have finished the game with a difference of a few points had we played until the end. Now, 17 points is a lot to try to recover," said Traore, putting things in perspective.

That being said, counting out the French side before the return leg in Le Portel next week may not be a wise thing to do. If there is any team in the FIBA Europe Cup capable of pulling off a miracle turnaround, it is definitely ESSM at Le Chaudron.

They have come out on top in all seven home games in the competition with an average victory margin of 23 points. Their largest win was a 101-51 blowout of Bosna, while Second Round rivals Nizhny Novgorod put up the best fight, surrendering in a 79-72 contest.

Le Portel have not lost a single home game in the FIBA Europe Cup this season

"I am pretty disappointed with my team because we played just for 30 minutes and we knew that we have to be aggressive and determined for the full 40 minutes. The rebounding stats showed the difference between a good team and a better team," said coach Girard, pointing to the fact his team got out-rebounded by double digits on the offensive glass. 

"I will be looking for a reaction from my players in the next game."

Although Dinamo Sassari may be in control of the tie, the Sardinians may want to proceed with caution and hold off from any premature celebrations until they survive Le Chaudron's challenge in a week's time.