Tamil Nadu outplays Punjab to emerge the men’s champion

Chhattisgarh girls stole the thunder stopping champion Railways in its tracks for their maiden title in the IMG Reliance 64th National basketball championship at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

It is only the third time that Railways has lost in the title round in the last 29 editions. Delhi was the last team to beat it and take the title about a decade ago in Hyderabad.

In the men’s section Tamil Nadu regained the trophy outplaying Punjab 74-57 after leading 37-30 at half-time.

The day belonged to Chhattisgarh which was playing only its second final. Seemingly preserving its best for the last, Chhattisgarh won 81-77 after trailing 38-45 at the interval.

Kavita the heroine

Though it was a splendid team effort as every player ran hard and contributed her best, the heroine for Chhattisgarh was once again the wiry Kavita Kumari. She split the Railways defence with clinical precision time and again to top score with 25 points.

After Railways was up 64-60 by the end of the third quarter, L. Deepa turned the tide for Chhattisgarh with three three-pointers.

Saranjeet Kaur and Bharti Netam also joined the three-pointer spree and soon Chhattisgarh had opened up a 74-70 lead with about four minutes left on the clock.

With the dependable Geethu Anna Jose not at her best and the rest of the team struggling, Railways failed to tackle the climax with its usual competence. Anju Lakra, however, was her usual fluent self with five three-pointers on the trot.

Chhattisgarh used the towering Poonam Chaturvedi judiciously.

It replaced her for the most part to infuse some speed in the ranks that fetched admirable rewards.

Kavita Kumari was adjudged ‘most valuable player’ in the women’s section and was presented the Harish Sharma Trophy.

The men’s section honour went to Rikin Pethani, who along with the evergreen Pratham Singh, ran riot in collecting more than half the team’s points.

The two had fabulous support from the rest, while Punjab was unable to rise to the occasion after being in the race till a minute to go for half-time when a solitary point separated the two teams.

Pethani, Pratham Singh, Prasanna Venkatesh, Vineeth Revi Mathew and P. Akilan took turns to strike telling blows on resumption, that left Punjab trailing 59-44 by the end of the third quarter.

There was no recovery thereafter, though Punjab bridged the gap to nine points in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

Pratham Singh and Pethani were shouldered by their teammates as they cut the net of the basket on both rings and garlanded themselves triumphantly.

Palpreet Singh, the livewire of the Punjab team, was disheartened though he top-scored for the team. It required a lot of cajoling to make him receive the runner-up medal at the presentation ceremony.

The champion teams were presented Rs. 1.5 lakh each and the runners-up received Rs. 1 lakh. Services men and Delhi women, who won the third place, were presented Rs. 50,000 each.

The results:

Men: Final: Tamil Nadu 74 (Rikin Pethani 22, Pratham Singh 20, Vineeth Revi 11) bt Punjab 57 (Palpreet Singh 21, Gurkirpal Singh Dhillon 12, Amritpal Singh 10).

Third place: Services 82 (Gopal Ram 16, Narender Grewal 13, Jai Ram 12, Manu Joseph 12) bt Uttarakhand 54 (Yadwinder Singh 15, Amritpal Singh 13).

Women: Final: Chhattisgarh 81 (Kavita Kumari 25, Saranjeet Kaur 20, Bharti Netam 16, L. Deepa 11) bt Railways 77 (Anju Lakra 23, Geethu Anna Jose 17, M. Pushpa 11, Raja Priyadarshini 11).

Third place: Delhi 79 (Prashanti Singh 21, Akanksha Singh 16, Pratima Singh 14, Raspreet Sidhu 13, Sonika Ohlyan 10) bt Maharashtra 66 (Shireen Limaye 22, Krittika Divadkar 15, B. Sangeetha 12).

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