Defending champs US Monastir knocked out of BAL by AS Douanes

Basketball Africa League defending champions US Monastir have failed to progress to the BAL playoffs, losing their final Sahara Conference game to hosts AS Douanes of Senegal.

Monastir, who won their first three games of the Conference, held in Dakar over the past 10 days, lost their way in the second half of the fortnight and squandered their chance to defend their crown in Kigali, Rwanda, in May.

It all came down to points difference on the final night of competition, as five of the six sides, including Monastir, finished on three wins and two losses. Monastir's tight scorelines worked against them as the calculations put them out of the running.

The four teams to advance to the playoffs are Douanes, ABC Fighters of Ivory Coast, Stade Malien of Mali, and REG of Rwanda. The Nile Conference in Cairo (April 26 - May 6) will decide the other four teams.

Douanes, who did the opposite of Monastir by starting the tournament badly and then improving steadily, won the game on Tuesday night 76-60 in front of a roaring home crowd, with American Chris Crawford scoring a game-high 28 points.

Crawford said afterwards: "There's one thing that I love about this group -- I feel that everybody listens. Everybody wants to get better.

"Even when we lost the first two games, I think I told everybody here not to worry -- not to get discouraged. [I told] the fans not to get discouraged because this is a good group."

Monastir were not pleased by the officiating in the game, with Ibrahima Thomas calling out the officials for not being 'professional' in front of the home crowd.

He said: "You don't want to sound like a sore loser, but at the same time, we didn't get any calls and they were getting so many calls. Come on, man.

"For sure, they (the home crowd) had an impact [on] it, but come on -- the referees should be more professional. Everyone watched the game today."

In the other game of the final day, ABC Fighters lost to eventual Conference winners Stade Malien, and it was a drubbing at 90-71.

Aliou Diarra was the star for the Mali side, scoring 22 points. But the real winner was teamwork, as Malien score 54 points in the paint to ABC's 18. They forwent three-point shots for the basics, and it paid off.

Malien were another team that started off poorly but gathered momentum as they gelled together, with center Reuben Chinyelu, who had 13 rebounds on the night, saying: "I think this is a little bit of what I could do. I think I could do more.

"I would stay it's step by step -- we're building, but I could do more... I would say we picked up from our mistakes in our previous games. We keep building -- keep stacking up the bricks step by step."

The caravan now moves to Cairo at the end of April, where six new teams, including Zaire Wade's Cape Town Tigers and Egyptian giants Al Ahly, will compete for their playoff places.

The BAL airs on ESPN's channels in Africa. Follow the scores and schedule here.