SCHWECHAT (FIBA Basketball World Cup European Pre-Qualifiers) - Austria, Bulgaria and Netherlands snapped up the first tickets to the FIBA Basketball World Cup European Qualifiers on Saturday night.
Austria were the first team to find their way into the Qualifiers, which begin in November, via a 97-63 win over Albania in Saturday's early game. The win knocks the winless Albania out of contention and means that Netherlands, can not be overtaken in second place in Group B.
The top two teams from each of the four groups advance to the 32-team Qualifiers, which will be completed by the 24 teams set to play in FIBA EuroBasket 2017 later this month.
NBA player Jakob Poltl continued his good form in his first senior campaign for Austria, with 18 points and 6 rebounds. However, it was 26-year-old center Rasid Mahalbasic who stole the show, recording 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists for an efficiency of 35.
In Group D, a rampant Bulgaria ran by Portugal 91-65 to lock up their Qualifiers' spot with a game in hand, leaving winless Portugal needing Bulgaria to defeat Belarus on Wednesday, before performing the same task at home next Saturday.
Aleksander Vezenkov led Bulgaria with 21 points and 7 rebounds.
In a tight Group A, the only four-team group, proceedings became even more crowded as Sweden and Armenia both picked up big wins on the road.
Sweden completed a double over Bosnia and Herzegovina with an 88-72 win, improving to 2-2, with their remaining two games taking place at home. Thomas Massamba shot 63.6% from the field on the way to a game-high 20 points.
The Pre-Qualifiers' surprise package Armenia picked up their third win, defeating Slovak Republic 92-78. Ryan Boatright, who had 22 points on Saturday, and his teammates, can guarantee a spot in the Qualifiers with a win in one of their two remaining games.
Rounding out Saturday's action, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (MKD) picked up a win at their third time trying, defeating guests Kosovo 87-74. Basketball Champions League Regular Season MVP Jordan Theodore had his best outing yet for his adopted country, scoring a game-high 24 points. It sets up an intriguing conclusion to Group C. Estonia remain in command with two wins in as many games, but all three teams remain in a realistic position to keep their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 dream alive.