Customs and Central Excise (Kochi) topped Pool ‘A' and enjoyed the gentle cushion of being the first team from the men's section to enter the semifinals of the 47th all-India basketball tournament for the prestigious PSG Trophy at the PSG College of Technology, here on Friday.
The table-toppers scored a hard-fought 57-53 win over a tough-looking Vijaya Bank (Bangalore) in its last league clash for a place in the last-four.
The Bankmen had to win the match by a big margin to stay in contention for a semifinal berth. And, its coach Rajkumar promised a fast-paced game from its players. They did that to a great extent, but the Customs players cut short their pace for the early lead (17-8).
Monish Wilson (13 points) and Shinumon Augustine were the early trouble makers in the Bangalore defence. They showed a fine understanding and shot very well from the perimeter. And, the lead margin steadily grew through the half.
Good defensive job
The Bankmen did a good defensive job midway through the second quarter and, with it, contained the scoring opportunities of their rivals. After settling down things, Vijaya Bank came out charging and the tide suddenly seemed to be turning its way for good. At half-time, the scores were level at 24-24.
In the third quarter, Basavaraj (10 points) and Naik (10 points) made a good run of scoring for Bangalore. They showed more determination in shooting the ball and their pace was a constant threat. But, Customs withstood the sudden onslaught and took over the stage through R. Manoj (24 points), easily the day's best player.
The opening minutes of the final quarter brought the best out of Vijaya Bank. The players were hitting long range shots on target and, with it, ticked the scorecard in its favour at 51-42. But just when the match seemed to be slipping out of the Kochi hands, Sunny Thomas came up with a couple of stunning three pointers.
Manoj joined the party, posting a double whammy in the dying minutes to close out the contest in style.
League: Men (PSG Trophy): Customs & Central Excise (Kochi) 57 (R. Manoj 24, Monish Wilson 13) bt Vijaya Bank (Bangalore) 53 (Naik 10, Basavaraj 10).
On Thursday: Customs & Central Excise (Kochi) 61 (Manoj 19, Monish Wilson 17) bt KSEB (Kerala) 42 (Umesh Krishnan 16, Nikhil 11).
Women (CRI Trophy): Southern Railway (Chennai) 69 (Neena Hareendaran 27, Apoorva Muralinath 18) bt PSG SC (Coimbatore) 40 (Mariammal 13); Rising Star (Chennai) 86 (Sowmya 24, Sangeetha 15) bt JSA (Coimbatore) 44 (Divya 14, Selvambigai 10); South Western Railway (Hubli) 66 (Anu Mathew 19, Savita 13) bt KSEB (Kerala) 44 (Anjana 17).
Keywords: PSG Trophy