Maharashtra women’s tenacity in defence and energy on the attack doused Southern Railways’ fire in a Pool A thriller. Renu Mourya’s composure under pressure helped Maharashtra escape to victory at 69-75 at the 28th Federation Cup basketball championships here on Tuesday. The tiny playmaker sunk a three-pointer and induced a foul with 22 seconds remaining.
Shirin Limaye had earlier pulled down rebounds under the defensive board, dived on the floor to regain ball possession and, with teammates on the same wavelength, Maharashtra remained out of its rival’s reach. “For the second game in a row, the girls tried to execute plans,” said coach Geo Blesson.
Smruthi Radhakrishnan (28) and Manisha Dange (17) were on target as the winner topped Pool A while S. Kokila (19) and M. Apurva (18) were the key contributors for Southern Railway.
“Two players on four fouls was a tense situation for us. Railways took advantage and reduced the gap. We did not have replacements, so the girls on court had to somehow keep going,” said the Maharashtra coach, relieved after two tough wins over Kerala and Railways to confirm a semifinal place.
Railways clawed back in the third and fourth quarters, 21-20 and 26-22, but paid the price for early lapses. “Geethu Anna Jose and R. Anitha’s absence, for personal reasons, has created a vacuum. These girls have to learn it the hard way,” said coach Prasanna Jayashankar.
She added: “I am not worried about this young team, they have the talent but have to learn to avoid mistakes under pressure.”
Southern Railway recovered its poise to force the third league tie against Kerala into extra-time at 61-all.
Internationals S. Jeena (34), N. Stephy (15) and Neenumol (14) asserted themselves to pull Kerala through to a 72-62 win, assuring Kerala of semifinal qualification as the second team from Pool A. Railways — up 44-41 when the third quarter ended — conceded the lead in the fourth and caught up again to force extra-time.
Stephy’s inability to convert free-throws forced Jeena to step up her game and chip in with points from breakaways.
Semifinal line-ups: Women: Maharashtra vs Delhi, Chhattisgarh vs Kerala. Men: ONGC (Uttarakhand) vs Army Red (Services), IOB (Tamil Nadu) vs BSF (Punjab).
The results: League: Women: Maharashtra 75 (Smruthi Radhakrishnan 28, Manisha Dange 17) bt Southern Railway 69 (S. Kokila 19, M. Apurva 18); Kerala 72 (S. Jeena 34, N. Stephy 15, Neenumol 14) bt Southern Railway 62 (H. Neena 15, R. Alagu 13, R. Priyadarshini 10) via extra-time (61-61 full-time); Chhattisgarh 114 (Poonam Chaturvedi 27, M. Pushpa 17, Kavita 15) bt Karnataka 41 (P. Navaneetha 11).
Men: IOB, Tamil Nadu 67 (P. Mihir 17, Riken Pethani 15, R. Vineet 12) bt Bhilai Steel Plant, Chhattisgarh 47 (Ajay Pratap Singh 22); ONGC, Uttarakhand 74 (Amritpal Singh 23, Yadvinder Singh 11, Mohit Bhandari 10) bt Bhavnagar, Gujarat 40 (Dishant Shah 18, Indravijaysingh Gohil 16); BSF, Punjab 84 (Vinod Kumar 32, Davinder Hooda 18, Mahesh Kumar Mishra 14) bt Sikar, Rajasthan 77 (Hirendra Singh 26, Sharad Dadhich18, Kamran Khan 14); Army Red, Services 88 (Gopal Ram 22, Mayur Bhat 18, Y.P. Abhishek 16) bt Central Excise, Kerala 44 (K.R. Nikhil 10).