They travelled over 7,000 km to have a chance to play in Prague. After falling short at the Mexico City Masters (3rd), Michael Linklater & co embarked on a 3-week trip to Europe to compete against the best European teams and got their ticket to Prague in a challenger in Berlin, Germany.
The Canadian did not disappoint in Pool D and were one of only two teams to win both games on Day 1. Nolan Brudehl caught fire against Budapest with 11pts including 5 bombs from behind the arc. Michael Linklater then stepped up in a hard-fought game against Gdansk with 8pts.
The only other unbeaten team? Saskatoon's nemesis Novi Sad Al Wahda, who had back-to-back wins in Pool A against Humpolec (CZE) (21-17) and Utrecht (NED) (21-12) - despite dunking machine Bas Rozendaal aka 'the Mountain'.
The surprises came on Pool B and C where Vitez (BIH) and Ostrava (CZE) took first place despite being seeded 10th and 11th respectively!
Zeljko Palavra not only led Vitez but led all scorers on Day 1 with 22 points. He had a whopping 15 in a one-point loss against Ljubljana and was instrumental in the win against Belgrade.
Ostrava got the massive crowd of Wenceslas Square on its feet after stunning upset of #3 seed Piran (SLO) and went through after the Slovenians defeated Vilnius (LTU).
The biggest shock on Day 1 was the resume of some of the eliminated teams: Belgrade (SRB) were a semi-finalist last year in Prague and Gdansk (POL) reached the semi-finals of the Lausanne Masters last season. Even worse: Vilnius won the whole thing in Lausanne in 2015.
Balasz Kerpel-Fronius (Budapest, HUN) and Michael Hicks (Gdansk, POL) trailed Palavra in the scoring charts with 20 and 19pts respectively.
The action resumes at 16.30 local time (GMT+2) tomorrow with the quarter-finals.
Schedule Novi Sad Al Wahda (UAE, 1) - Budapest (HUN, 12) Ostrava (CZE, 11) - Ljubljana (SLO, 2) Vitez (BIH, 10) - Piran (SLO, 3) Saskatoon (CAN, 4) - Humpolec (CZE, 9)
In the Shoot-out Contest Qualifier, Nolan Brudehl (Saskatoon, CAN), Jasmin Hercegovac (Ljubljana, SLO), Jan Kratochvil (Humpolec, CZE) and Dejan Majstorovic (Novi Sad Al Wahda, UAE) earned their ticket to the final tomorrow.
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