India cruised to an 89-35 victory over Sri Lanka, after leading 51-11 at halftime in the final of the Middle Asia qualifying basketball tournament at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium here on Friday.

India will join Lebanon, Malaysia and Korea, in group ‘A' in the Asian Championship to be staged at Wuhan, China, from September 15 to 25.

After having handled the Lankans with competence in the opening league encounter, wining 99-42, and having overwhelmed Bangladesh in the semifinals, scoring 120 points, the host left very little room for any expectations about the climax.

In fact, it was difficult for India to motivate itself to its best performance against an opposition that did not pose much of a challenge, despite its spirited approach. Thus, it was no surprise that the team scored its lowest total in the tournament, in the final.

With intense defence as the prime target, India raced to a 25-2 lead in the first quarter, and kept the Lankans in a tight leash for three quarters, as it reached 73-21.

There was no rush to score and thus Hareesh Koroth's 12 was the top score, while Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh and Trideep Rai managed to reach double figures. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (9), Yadwinder Singh (9), Jagdeep Singh (8), Prakash Koroth (7), Eudrick Pereira (6) kept themselves busy with a few shots.

In fact, everyone scored a point, with Sambhaji Kadam converting one of two free throws.

American coach Kenny Natt who has been training the Indian team for about a month said that he could understand the sloppy play and the difficulty of the team in keeping the focus, but sounded a warning that the Indian team could not afford to be lax at the next stage against high quality teams.

“23 turn-overs in a game like this against an opponent not so good, you are killing yourself. Twelve offensive rebounds, not so good,'' he said.

He was, however, quite happy with the overall performance, but was clear that there was nothing to be elated about.

“This was very good, but we have not arrived yet. We have a long way to go,'' said Natt, as he summed up the three-day competition in which he saw the Indian team compete for the first time.

The coach felt that the team needed four or five more matches in the run-up to the Asian championship, but conceded that he would allow the boys to relax for a couple of weeks now before gathering again for the next training camp.

The seasoned Jagdeep Singh who had entertained with a few dunks, including one in the nick of time before the whistle for the end of first quarter, opined that it was a good tournament for the juniors.

The towering Satnam Singh was the cynosure of all eyes, and utilised the tournament nicely to get acclimatised to competing with the men, and score a few points to make his presence felt.

The results: Final: India 89 (Hareesh Koroth 12, Amjyot Singh 10, Amritpal Singh 10, Trideep Rai 10) bt Sri Lanka 35 (Praneeth 17).

Third place: Nepal 73 (Sadish Pradhan 24, Binod Maharjan 21, Bipender Maharjan 14) bt Bangladesh 62 (Mithun Kumar Biswas 19, Md. Shamsuzzaman Khan 13, Md. Rasheduzzaman 11, Shre Mithun Sarker 11).

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