Uttarakhand men walked away with the trophy as defending champion Punjab surrendered without a fight, in front of a capacity crowd, in the final of the IMG Reliance 63rd National basketball championship here on Friday.
It was the turn of Yadwinder Singh to steal the limelight as he shot 35 points as the host was outclassed in an unexpectedly one-sided match in which Uttarakhand prevailed 79-61 after leading 45-35 at halftime. It was the second title for Uttarakhand which won its maiden title at the same venue eight years ago as Uttaranchal.
The match was played at such a slow pace that the fiery Vishesh Bhriguvanshi could not goad himself to his best performance. In fact, it was Murali Krishna who had dunked early in the contest to set the tempo.
The Uttarakhand team garlanded Vishesh with a net taken from the basket, as a token of celebration, for his versatile performance throughout the championship.
The organisers pressed a bunch of young gymnasts to entertain the crowd after the match, as Punjab literally froze in cold conditions.
Punjab was woefully off colour and ran out of ideas early in the match, once the speedy Talwinderjit Singh Sahi was bottled by the strong rival defence. The rest lacked the experience, and Punjab, looking for its seventh title, slowly but surely slid to a comprehensive defeat.
The clock on Punjab’s side above its basket stopped functioning in the last eight minutes, but it did not matter, as the result was a foregone conclusion.
In the women’s section, Railways was teased a bit by first-time finalist Tamil Nadu, but prevailed 102-82 after leading 52-41 at halftime.
Geethu at her best
Geethu Anna Jose was at her fluent best, scoring 48 points to scotch the slender hopes of the Tamil Nadu girls, while the rest rallied around her briskly. Once Geethu became pedestrian for lack of challenge, as she missed simple baskets, she was benched in the last five minutes.
It was to Tamil Nadu’s credit that it played freely, with Raja Priyadarshini and Apoorva Muralinath standing out as they scored 40 points between them.
Tamil Nadu was 21-24 at the end of the first quarter, but Railways stepped it up in the third quarter when it led 79-58 and sustained the momentum till the finish.
It was the 26th national title for the Railways women in the last 28 years, and the team had lost the crown only to Punjab (1998) and Delhi (2003).
Quite appropriately, Yadwinder and Geethu were adjudged the ‘best players’.
Men (final): Uttarakhand 79 (Yadwinder Singh 35, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 5, Murali Krishna 13) bt Punjab 61 (Satnam Singh 19, Talwinderjit Singh Sahi 13, Ranbir Singh 13).
Third place: Services 79 (Gopal Ram 16, Jogender Singh 12, Jairam Jat 11, Narender Kumar 11, Dalip Kumar 10) bt Tamil Nadu 49 (Pratham Singh 17).
Women (final): Railways 102 (Geethu Anna Jose 48, Anju Lakra 14, P. Anitha 13) bt Tamil Nadu 82 (Raja Priyadarshini 21, Apoorva Muralinath 19, Soniya Joy 13, M. Adhirai 10).
Third place: Chhattisgarh 71 (Seema Singh 27, Poonam Chaturvedi 16, L. Deepa 11) bt Delhi 66 (Raspreet Sidhu 23, Pratima Singh 16, Sonika Ohlyan 13).
Keywords: National basketball championship