The Alliance has its “star”. Her name is Blake Francis. In front of an effervescent crowd won over by the American and his 30 points, the Montreal club won its first game of the season by an unequivocal final score of 84-69, Friday evening, at the Verdun Auditorium.
New season, same wild atmosphere.
DJ, presentation of the players in a cloud of smoke, breakdancers during stoppage time… Like last season, this first meeting was a show, sold out. And as in 2022, NBA players Luguentz Dort and Chris Boucher, sunglasses on their faces, were attentive on the sidelines. Boucher also spent the intermission in front of a crowd of fans to autograph jerseys, caps and balloons.
What better accompaniment to this off-court spectacle than a win over one of the teams considered top contenders, the Niagara River Lions?
“I feel proud,” dropped head coach Derrick Alston Sr. before thanking his players for giving him his first win at the helm.
From the first seconds, the crowd was involved… and amazed by the maneuvers of Blake Francis. Lively, quick and agile, the 25-year-old American netted the first basket of the game for the Alliance on a solo breakout. The evening was launched.
“It felt good to let the nerves out a bit,” a calm but happy Francis said after the game. I had fun throughout the game. The crowd played a huge role in our victory. »
“I could barely hear myself thinking!” exclaimed Alston Sr. But it was great. […] Pardon my language, but it’s ten times better than what happens in the G-League, and I was there for seven years. I look forward to all the home games! »
The Alliance, playing for the first time after a very short training camp, trailed slightly 15-12 in the first quarter. Delay that she was quick to fill. Derrick Alston Sr.’s squad did indeed seem to get more comfortable in the second quarter. This one started with the first two Alliance three-pointers, courtesy of the specialist in the field, Ahmed Hill. The crowd was waiting for this.
Coming back to the locker room for intermission, the Alliance had a 33-30 lead, thanks in part to 12 points from Hill and 10 from Francis. The latter were the two most used players by the coach with over 32 minutes of playing time.
“He’s the star of our team,” dropped Alston Sr., who knows Francis well from having previously coached him.
“I know he can score. Everyone in the building knows he can score. When he gets better defensively, he becomes a star. […] During the game he became better defensively because he knows that I will hold him accountable. He was excellent. He is the machine that drives the team forward. »
Quebecer Nathan Cayo, who recorded six offensive rebounds in the victory, also did not hesitate to praise the work of his teammate, with whom he has already played in the past.
“He’s going to be an incredible player for us,” he said. He can score in so many different ways and pass the ball. »
Even if it was sometimes a little disorganized defensively, the Alliance only widened its lead little by little. Late in the game, as she tried to reach the 83-point target set by the Elam rule, Hill and Nathan Cayo went there with two dunks in a row. The crowd, already on their feet, was ecstatic.
“I think we won the game with defense and effort,” Cayo said. I think we worked harder than them. We wanted more than them. We did everything we could to win. »
These words echoed those of his trainer, spoken a little earlier.
“They played selflessly,” Alston Sr. said. “They had confidence, something I talk about every day. »
Now that the first victory is achieved, the challenge will be to obtain others. Last year, the Alliance won their first game before losing 16 of their next 19 games.
The secret to getting there? “Keep trusting each other,” Blake Francis said. It’s the first game of the season, it’s still a work in progress. I think we will continue to build this confidence over the matches and become a very good team. »
The LECB is the only basketball league in the world to have adopted the Elam rule. When there are less than four minutes left in the game, the clock is put away for the rest of the game. At the next stoppage of play, a score to be reached is established, i.e. the number of points of the leading team plus nine.