Great Britain international Pops Mensah Bonsu led Turkish club Besiktas to a 91-86 victory over Chalon in the Eurochallenge final in Debrecen.

The Londoner had 26 points and 20 rebounds and was named as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

He becomes only the third Brit ever to win a European club trophy. And having joined the Istanbul side in mid-season, fresh off six long months of rehab from the shoulder surgery that kept him out of EuroBasket 2011, his emotions were clear to see.

“It’s been a difficult 18 months for me,” he admitted. “Having the injury. Bouncing around from team to team, wondering what lay in store. It’s been hard.

“But it makes this all the sweeter, especially winning the MVP. That’s the cherry on the cake. Having come through everything, I’m more appreciative to be in this position.”

It could, perhaps, have been even easier if not for Chalon’s resilience.

David Hawkins sent Besiktas 15-3 ahead midway through the opening quarter, the French side stopped in their tracks and struggling to make an impact.

They needed patience, but also ignition, to edge back into contention. Emboldened after their achievements at home and abroad this season, they declined to relent.

Trailing 32-15 after Besiktas hit five consecutive points at the start of the second period, French international Steed Tchicamboud sparked his side belatedly into action as Blake Schilb broke free of his shackles.

The American found Michel Jean-Baptiste-Adolphe open for a lay-in that capped a 7-1 run that closed the gap to just 42-38. Hope was restored. Confidence remained.

And the 44-40 deficit at half-time looked far from surmountable. So it proved.

Chalon rattled off seven unanswered points to sweep 55-53 ahead with 1:40 left in the third quarter as Besiktas felt the heat.

The Pro A side had the momentum in their favour and belief ran through their veins. Fighting for every loose ball, battling for each open shot, their push was relentless but ultimately, it came up short.

Erseg sent the Turks into the fourth period with a 57-55 advantage and although Abdul Aminu levelled once more, Chalon would never lead again.

A 7-0 run put them into a hole and there was no way out.

Carlos Arroyo dropped two long-range bombs within 90 seconds and his team began to exhale when they pulled 82-70 clear with 2:03 left.

Tchicamboud, who hit a team-high 19 points, attempted to spark one last brave rally but it was too tough an ask as Besiktas completed their mission from the foul line and the celebrations began.

For Mensah-Bonsu, it has been a long journey to this point, coming full circle.

“It’s kind of eerie,” he declared. “I came to this game with mixed feelings because it was against Chalon last season that I suffered my shoulder injury while playing for Asvel.

“When I knew we’d play them in the final, I looked at it as fate. This was the game I didn’t get to finish last year.

“The way my season ended last year, this makes this victory all the sweeter.”


Eurochallenge Final (Debrecen). Besiktas 91 Chalon 86. Third place play-off. Triumph Moscow 94 Szolnoki 87


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