Indian Railways wins ninth successive title

There is, perhaps, not a team in India, with such a wonderful array of immensely talented players and a State with a very rich infrastructure, that would have had to wait for such a long time to bag the Todd Memorial Trophy, as did Punjab.

The 62nd Senior National basketball championships at the Nehru Indoor Stadium here on Saturday, ended Punjab's 13-year wait when it defeated Tamil Nadu 70-62 in the men's final, without any major hiccups and a good capacity crowd cheering the host. This is Punjab's sixth title.

Earlier, Indian Railways women had to face a stiff competition from Chhattisgarh before emerging triumphant 94-70. This is Railways's ninth successive Baslat Jha Trophy.

Praveen dazzles

Not many expected Tamil Nadu to script victory over a team which has been superior in all respects, but fight hard the host did till the second and early part of the third quarters. Playmaker Praveen Kumar's entry created a lot of buzz in the penultimate quarter as he did with quite a few impressive drive-ins and assists.

From 58-55, Talwinderjit Singh and Jagdeep Singh took the game away from Tamil Nadu with fine lay-ups. In a matter of few minutes, the lead extended to 10 points (65-55). Thereafter the host couldn't recover, however hard it tried.

Punjab had a headstart taking a 10-3 lead in the beginning and ended the first quarter at 24-15 and the second at 37-32. Amritpal Singh (Jr.) playing in his first Nationals, was a head-turner. Throughout the championships, he has been scoring at a consistent rate, and his defensive and offensive rebounds were the key in the match. His 21 points were vital in the end analysis.

TN's pivot Rikin Pethani played his heart out, but he was a marked man.

In the women's summit clash, Chhattisgarh's Deepa and Seema Singh created numerous problems for the champion side with regular two and three-pointers in the first two quarters. But once Railways found its bearing in the third, there was no stopping it.

Ashwini Kumar, Punjab chief coach, praised Jagdeep and Talwinderjit. “They were the pillars of the Punjab team. The game revolved around the two,” he said.

Indian Railways and Tamil Nadu finished third in the men's and women's sections.

The results:

Men: (final): Punjab 70 (Talwinderjit Singh 17, Amritpal Singh (Jr.) 21, Jagdeep Singh 17) bt TN 62 (Saravana Rajan 11, Rikin Pethani 24).

Third place: Indian Railways 89 (Vikram Parmar 12, Prakash Mishra 14, Gagandeep Singh 37, Jasjot Singh 14) Services 81 (Joginder Singh 14, Narender Kumar Grewal 37, Gopal Ram 14).

Women: (final): Indian Railways 94 (Geetu Anna Jose 31, P. Anitha 19, Smruthi Radhakrishnan 11, Anju Lakra 14) bt Chhattisgarh 70 (L. Deepa 20, Kavita 17, Seema Singh 17).

Third place: TN 68 (N Shyamala Jothi 20, Sunita Suren 10, Neena Hareendran 13, M. Apoorva 15) bt Delhi 45 (Sonika Ohlyan 14, Asha Hegde 11).

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