20 September, 2018
01 May, 2019
Photo: Erika Simon
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Two in, nine to go: Alba and Balkan lock up Regular Season berths

MUNICH (FIBA Europe Cup) – Alba Fehervar and Balkan Botevgrad emerged as the first victors of Qualification Round 2 in the FIBA Europe Cup, snatching up tickets to the Regular Season after dramatic second-leg duels on Tuesday evening.

The Branislav Dzunic-coached Szekesfehervar locked up a spot in the Group Phase after edging Dnipro by seven points on aggregate after a 90-67 display at home, while a double-digit cushion from the first game was enough to see Balkan through in spite of a 66-68 defeat to New Heroes Den Bosch in Botevgrad.

Despite coming short in their respective ties, Dnipro and New Heroes are not out of the race completely, with three more spots in the Regular Season reserved for the three best-ranked losing teams. The six other Qualification Round 2 winners and all three 'lucky losers' will be confirmed on Wednesday.

Alba Fehervar v Dnipro, 90-67 (168-161)

Allerik Freeman scored 29 points and Jordan Heath double-doubled with 20 points and 14 rebounds, as Alba Fehervar did the unthinkable and erased a 16-point deficit form the first leg with a dominant 90-67 victory against Dnipro in the return game in Hungary.

Having broken away to a 22-10 lead in the opening frame of the contest, the hosts tipped the scales in their favor in the second quarter and managed to hold on to the advantage the rest of the way.

Their guests from Ukraine did have their chances but simply couldn't make them count, going just 9-of-31 from three-point range. After stellar performances in the past three games in the Qualifiers, Oleksandr Mishula went just 7-of-21 from the floor en route to a team-high 24 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.

Alba Fehervar joined the likes of FC Porto and Pallacanestro Varese in Group F, with the last remaining vacancy in the group to be filled by one of the teams from the 'lucky loser' pool.

They said: "First of all, I want to wish all the best for Dnipro. Somehow we played with more intensity and were able to fight. I would like to say congratulation to my team." – Alba Fehervar head coach Branislav Dzunic

"Alba obviously wanted to win this game; maybe they wanted it more than us. We lost the rebounds, we couldn't fight [strong] enough, and unfortunately we lost the game." – Dnipro head coach Denys Zhuravlov

Balkan v New Heroes Den Bosch, 66-68 (152-144)

A resurgent New Heroes side swung hard in Botevgard, but a 68-66 road victory against Balkan wasn't enough to overwrite the damage done in the first meeting between the teams in Den Bosch.

The Ivica Skelin-coached side were only able to even the aggregate score of the tie for a couple of possessions with a 46-36 lead in the third quarter before the home side skimmed off enough points to put them back in the driver's seat.

Mikael Hopkins led the victors with 18 points and 5 rebounds, Dimitar Dimitrov had 17 points and 5 boards, while Brandon Brown chipped in with 10 points and 7 assists.

Jonathon Williams went 9-of-10 from the field for a game-high 21 points for the New Heroes, as Keshun Sherrill and Devon Van Oostrum collected 13 and 11 points, respectively.

After topping Den Bosch, Balkan were placed in Group B of the Regular Season alongside Tsmoki-Minsk, AEK Larnaca and Belfius Mons-Hainaut.

They said: "I am happy we reached the Group Phase of the FIBA Europe Cup, but I am not happy with how we played tonight. Not just that we lost, but the way we played. To score 66 points in our gym is unacceptable. Definitely, Den Bosch improved themselves the last seven days. They stepped up with better energy, they were much more aggressive, they scrambled defensively." – Balkan head coach Neboisa Vidic

"Congratulations to Balkan on qualifying. Congrats to my team for the nice game tonight. I think we played much better than a week ago. I am satisfied with the game we showed here. There is always certain fear that after losing at home by 10 that you will come just on vacation. We showed that we came to play, I am satisfied with the victory. Had we been more concentrated from the free throws, we could have won with bigger differences, but this is life." – New Heroes Den Bosch head coach Ivica Skelin