TN pips Services; Chhattisgarh, Railways women in final
It was a moment of madness that sealed the fate of defending champion Uttarakhand. Title-aspirant Punjab pounced on the opportunity and turned the match around for a 80-68 victory in the semifinals of the IMG Reliance 64th National basketball championship at the Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.
Leading comfortably at 57-46 with two minutes left on the clock in the third quarter, champion Uttarakhand opted to give vent to its frustration at a foul being called against the team. The team’s leading players Amritpal Singh and Yadwinder Singh sarcastically clapped at the FIBA referee Gens Varghese who reported the matter to the technical bench. It led to two further technical fouls being awarded against the team.
Gurkirpal Singh, a coach who had been drafted into the young Punjab squad for his experience following his good performance in the last Police Games, converted five of the resultant seven free throws, to bridge the gap for Punjab.
More than that, what dealt a decisive blow to the aspirations of Uttarakhand was Amritpal Singh going out on five fouls following the technical foul. Even though, Yadwinder continued to excel in the company of Riyazuddin, Shabeer Ahmed and S. Sridhar, Uttarakhand was reduced to the state of a snake without its venom.
With Palpreet Singh and Ranbir Singh firing 54 points between them, Punjab cruised ahead after wresting the lead early in the fourth quarter. A couple of three pointers from Ranbir and Mod Singh firmly put the team on course to victory.
In the final, Punjab will be challenged by Tamil Nadu which warded off a stiff threat from Services 92-85 after leading 55-36 at half-time.
Services almost turned the table on Tamil Nadu as it took a four-point lead midway thorugh the last quarter. However, Services lost the services of its leading player Jai Ram, following five fouls, with barely two minutes left on the clock and that proved decisive.
Pratham calls the shots
Tamil Nadu was at its fluent best in the climax with Pratham Singh calling the shots and the team scored as many as eight points in the last minute, and six of them were through free throws.
Pratham Singh was once again the star of the Tamil Nadu team with his vibrant all-round game and the rest of the team pulled its weight admirably.
In the women’s section, Chhattisgarh warded off a stiff challenge from Mahrashtra with a 75-65 victory after leading 33-23 at half-time.
Though Chhattisgarh’s supremacy was never in question, Maharashtra, with international Shireen Limaye leading from the front, made a good fight of it, much to the delight of the packed stands.
In the final, Chhattisgarh will challenge Railways which has won the women's title 26 times in the last 28 editions. Railways handled the zeal of Delhi with poise in recording a 100-65 victory.
With Raspreet Sidhu hurting her leg early in the match, Delhi was not at its best, but the Singh sisters, Prashanti, Akanksha and Pratima played very well along with skipper Manauti Passi to lend respectability to the score.
Men: Semifinals: Punjab 80 (Yadwinder Singh 24, Amritpal Singh 16, Riyazuddin 14) bt Uttarakhand 68 (Palpreet Singh 27, Ranbir Singh 27).
Tamil Nadu 92 (Pratham Singh 28, Prasanna Venkatesh 24, Vineeth Mathew 14, Rikin Pethani 14) bt Services 85 (Joginder Singh 18, Jai Ram 18, Gopal Ram 15, Antony Nixon 11, Narender Grewal 10).
Women: Semifinals: Railways 100 (Geethu Anna Jose 27, Anju Lakra 20, M. Pushpa 16, Smruthi Radhakrishnan 11, Raja Priyadarshini 10) bt Dlehi 65 (Prashanti Singh 17, Manauti Passi 12, Pratima Singh 11, Akanksha Singh 11).
Chhattisgarh 75 (Kavita 22, L. Deepa 16, Seema Singh 14, Poonam Chaturvedi 10) bt Maharashtra 65 (Shireen Limaye 20, Kritika Divadkar 18, Kenny Susan Lalu 10).
Quarterfinals: Maharashtra 77 (Kritika Divadkar 29, Shireen Limaye 12, B. Sangeetha 10, Sona Saji 10) bt Karnataka 58 (L. S. Savitha 12, P.U. Navaneetha 10).