Chhattisgarh women upset Delhi, make maiden final

Every time, M.S. Nazar, the chief coach of the Tamil Nadu men's team, has counted on his rookies, they've delivered. The exuberance of youth in the Tamil Nadu men's team has been instrumental in the host's wonderful run thus far. This time, the senior players joined in the party with a stand-out show.

The combination of youth and experience enabled Tamil Nadu produce yet another brilliant performance and put it across Services 74-70 in extra time in the first semifinal of the 62nd senior National basketball championships at the Nehru indoor stadium here on Friday. The teams were tied at 66-66 at the end of regulation time.

Tamil Nadu, looking for its eighth title, will meet overwhelming favourite Punjab in the final. Punjab dismantled the defending champion Indian Railways with a measure of comfort 95-61 in the second last four clash.

The day, certainly, belonged to Tamil Nadu. With a combined experience of seven Nationals for the State, Saravana Rajan and Mihir Pandey produced baskets to bail TN out at critical situations. Rajan's drive-ins and Pandey's shooting ensured Tamil Nadu remained in the hunt till the third quarter even though K. Vipin's near-perfect three pointers did reduce the lead considerably for Services (53-58).

With hardly a minute remaining for the final whistle and pressure mounting on both sides, Joginder Sharma's one and only three pointer helped Services equalise at 64-each. Joginder again converted in the dying minutes to make it even at 66-apiece after Raghu Ram had given the lead for TN. College student and pivot Rikin Pethani kept scoring at fairly regular intervals for Tamil Nadu. But his contribution in defensive rebounds was much more.

The five minutes of extra time did have its share of suspense-filled moments. One of the key players for Services, Narender Kumar Grewal's ejection after his fifth and final foul turned out to be a major boost for the host. Rajan's lay-up and a free throw resulting off a foul, with the clock showing 49 seconds, enabled TN take a 73-70 and it held possession to etch victory.

Railway women in final

Indian Railways women's supremacy is yet to be challenged. The 76-41 win over Tamil Nadu in the semifinals was executed in a clinical fashion, and it will be eager to bag its ninth consecutive title.

Geetu Anna Jose top-scored with 25 points, and she was pretty outstanding in defensive rebounds, a job expected of her. P. Anitha didn't lag behind much with 15 points. TN's Alagu Tamil Mozhi showed some spunk with nice dribbling and fine assists, but that wasn't enough as its forward came a cropper, yet again.

In the summit clash, Railways will face Chhatisgarh, which upset Delhi 59-56 to make its maiden entry into the final. It was a confident and determined performance from Chhattisgarh for whom Seema Singh was the match-winner.

Her 30 points took the match away from Delhi, which has been in the final since the 2002-03 edition.

Deepa's 10 points was another major factor in Chhattisgarh's victory. The diminutive ball handler played her role to perfection.

The results (semifinals):

Men: TN 74 (Saravana Rajan 18, Mihir Pandey 23, Rikin Pethani 15) bt Services 70 (Narender Kumar Grewal 20, Dalip Kumar 16, K. Vipin 15, Parveen Kumar 16).

Punjab 95 (Amyjot Singh 22, Talwinderjit Singh 29, Amritpal Singh (Jr.) 24) bt Indian Railways 61 (Gagandeep Singh 25).

Women: Indian Railways 76 (Geetu Anna Jose 25, P. Anitha 15, Manisha Dange 12) bt TN 41 (V. Sangeetha 12).

Chhattisgarh 59 (Aakansha Singh 10, L. Deepa 10, Seema Singh 30) bt Delhi 56 (Pratima Singh 11, Prashanti Singh 20).

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