MINSK (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Pre-Qualifiers) - Belarus and the Slovak Republic inscribed their first wins in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Pre-Qualifiers, while Bosnia and Herzegovina finally halted Armenia's undefeated run in Sarajevo.
Artsiom Parakhouski came up with all the big buckets for Belarus in crunch-time to secure their first win in Group D, holding on to take a hard-fought 78-75 victory against Portugal, who dropped to 0-2 after picking up a loss in Minsk.
After jumping out to a big 16-point lead in the opening quarter, Belarus couldn't maintain their momentum after Portugal switched from man-to-man coverage to zone defense. The visitors battled back and made it a close contest riding Tomas Barroso's hot 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc, tying the game on several occasions in the fourth period.
Parakhouski, who stepped up in the closing moments of the game with a couple of big mid-range jumpers, finished the night with 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Vitaly Liutych added 16 points, 7 boards and 3 steals.
Having collected all 18 points from long range, Portuguese guard Barroso was the game's top scorer, with Pedro Pinto and Stefan Djukic adding 15 and 12 points respectively.
After a couple of road losses to start their campaign, the Slovak Republic finally got the ball rolling in Group A with a 68-59 victory against Sweden at the Hant Arena in Bratislava, which hosted the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 only a couple of days previously.
The hosts broke away after the halftime break, outscoring their Swedish rivals 23-11 in the third quarter to get a double-digit advantage heading into the final frame of play. The visitors from Scandinavia had at one point made it a one-possession game, but the Slovak Republic held on.
37-year-old Radoslav Rancik finished the game with a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double, Michal Batka also double-doubled with 15 points and 11 boards, while Andre Jones had 15 points with 6 rebounds for the winners.
Adam Ramstedt and Tobias Borg were the only double-digit scorers for Sweden with 13 and 11 points respectively.
In the other game of the group, Bosnia and Herzegovina outgunned the visitors from Armenia 98-85 in an offensive-minded affair in Sarajevo to move atop the standings with a 2-1 record.
The Dusko Vujosevic-coached side took control of the game in the second period and never took their foot off the gas pedal, with 18-year-old starlet Dzanan Musa, still playing with a face mask, providing the seemingly never-ending fuel with a team-high 28 points.
Almir Hasandic collected 14 points for the winners, Edin Atic and Adin Vrabac chipped in with 12 points apiece, while Armenia's naturalized point guard Ryan Boatright posted 30 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Estonia kept their undefeated status in Group C with a convincing 76-50 home win against Kosovo in Tallinn, discontinuing coach Mike Greenberg's fairytale start of the Pre-Qualifiers with the Kosovar side.
Reinar Hallik led all scorers with 15 points and 4 assists, Sten Sokk collected 14 points, while Rain Veideman chipped in with 12 points and 3 steals, as Estonia moved to 2-0 in the standings.
Erjon Kastrati was the only double-digit scorer for Kosovo with 11 points, with the competition's leading scorer Dardan Berisha having a rough time against the Estonian defense with 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting from the field with 6 turnovers.
The Netherlands had to work harder than expected against Albania for the 91-77 victory in Amsterdam, but did find a way to move their mark to 2-0 in Group B with improved play after intermission.
Having trailed by a couple of points at intermission, the Dutch side turned things around with a 40-24 second-half, guard Jessey Voorn pacing the winners with a team-high 20 points.