Lebanon and Bahrain become the first two teams to directly qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 after collecting wins to close out Group D action in the second window.
Lebanon started things off by rallying from a double-digit deficit to avoid being upset by Iraq, 78-69. Bahrain then completed a successful Window 2 run by beating India once again, 88-72.
Lebanon went off to a slow start once again in their second game of the window. This played to the advantage of Iraq, as they pushed the tempo to build up a lead of as much as 10 points in the second quarter.
Demario Mayfield (22 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists) was spectacular as usual and he got plenty of help from Mohammed Al-Khafaji. The energetic big man contributed with an efficient 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the field.
Lebanon then flipped the script in the second half. The Cedars started a 4-0 run in the final minute of the second quarter which escalated to a total of 14 unanswered points to start the third quarter. Lebanon held on to the lead up until the final buzzer to avoid an upset by winless Iraq.
Wael Arakji starred for Lebanon once again, with yet another hot shooting performance. He led all scorers with 25 points on 9-16 shooting from the field in the win.
Bahrain might have had the better momentum coming into this game off two straight wins in the Qualifiers, but India played like that had something to prove. India’s starters came out of the gates on fire and built up a lead of as much as 18 points in the first half.
Despite the big deficit, Bahrain never flinched and slowly crept their way back into the game. By halftime, they were only down by 8 points and less than 3 minutes into the third quarter, Bahrain finally took the lead. After a dominating 29-8 third quarter, coach Sam Vincent’s team cruised along the rest of the way to the win in a miraculous 34-point turnaround. Bahrain rained in 12 three-pointers with a conversation rate of 42.9 percent in this victory.
Promising prospect Muzamil Hamoda continues to shine in the Qualifiers for Bahrain, finishing this game with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He’s always a threat to make a highlight and did so in this game with a thunderous one-handed poster dunk in transition.
Veteran Mohamed Kawaid also had an impactful game for Bahrain, doing a little bit of everything to end up with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. CJ Giles was the main man in the paint for Bahrain, posting a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds.
India’s starters were productive early on, whether it was Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (18 points), Amjyot Singh (15 points, 9 rebounds), Muin Bek Hafeez (10 points), and Jagdeep Singh (12 points). However, they weren’t able to maintain that energy throughout the entire 40 minutes of regulation.
The wins by Lebanon and Bahrain make them the first two teams to qualify directly to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021. There will be a total of 16 teams in the premier event of the region, made up of the top two teams in each group of the Qualifiers and four more teams that will be qualified through a separate tournament between the third placed teams from each group.
The third and final window of the Qualifiers for Group D will feature several important games. India and Iraq are scheduled to play in a game which should decide which team will finish third in the standings. Lebanon are also scheduled to play against Bahrain in a game which could decide the top team of the group.