Chris Lofton is no stranger to big games.
On Monday, the Mason County graduate scored 34 points to lead Le Mans Sarthe to an 84-72 win over AS Monaco Basket in Game 3 of the French Ligue Nationale de Basket JeepELITE championship series.
Lofton, who led the Royals to their first state basketball title in 2003, scored the first five points of the game for Le Mans. Le Mans evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece with an 87-77 win on Friday, in which Lofton had four points and four rebounds. Monaco took the first game, 81-77.
He added a 3-pointer to finish the first quarter with eight points, but Monaco held a 23-10 advantage.
The Southeastern Conference career leader in 3-pointers made went off for 13 points in the second quarter. He knocked down his second triple with 3:48 to play in the first half, making it 31-26, and made it a two-point game with a 3-point play. After a bucket from Monaco’s Christopher Evans, it was Lofton with the hoop and the harm again, drawing his team within a point with 2:10 left in the half. He made it a personal 8-2 run to give Le Mans a 36-35 lead. The team extended the lead to four at the half.
Lofton was held in check throughout the majority of the third quarter, but made three free throws with seven seconds left to tie the game at 57-all with a quarter to play.
He added 10 points in the final quarter to help Le Mans pull away for the 84-72 victory. The fourth game of the series is scheduled to be played Wednesday on LeMans home floor. Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday.
His 34 points are the third-most in the LNB finals, according to a post on the league’s Twitter account. Don Collins holds the record with 40 points and David Rivers posted a 36-point game.
Lofton’s previous playoff high was 25 points, coming in an 85-79 win over SIG Basket Strasbourg in the deciding game of the semifinal series. He scored 13 points in overtime in the victory.
Le Mans beat Lyon-Lilleurbanne in the final two games of the quarterfinal series to stay alive in the playoffs. Facing elimination in Game 2 of the best-of-three series, Lofton went 6-of-11 from 3-point range and finished with 20 points.