India staved off a brave challenge from Sri Lanka to post a 90-63 victory in the crucial final fixture of the South Asia Basketball Association (SABA) under-18 men’s qualifying tournament here on Monday.

The host’s second straight victory gave it a spot in the main draw of the FIBA Asia under-18 championship to be held at Doha (Qatar) next month.

India and Sri Lanka ran neck-to-neck for nearly three quarters, but the former’s height advantage helped it pull ahead. Gurvinder Gill (6ft 7in) and Anmol Singh (6ft 10in) grabbed rebounds and blocked shots at will, leaving the shorter Lankans desperate for answers.

The two centres were aided by shooting guard Mahipal Singh (32 pts, 14 rebounds), whose quick catch and shoot motion served him well.

The visitor was dealt a blow when its combative centre Kashi Juliyan — he found some success in marking his opposite number — was sent off

after an altercation with Gill. India was ahead at 53-51 when the fight broke out, and even though the prolific Gill was disqualified as well, it was the Lankans who came off worse.

The Indian under-18 women’s team, meanwhile, gained an automatic spot in the main draw after a place-finish in the previous edition of the FIBA Asian under-18 championship.

The result: India 90 (Mahipal Singh 32, K. Sunil 19, Anmol Singh 15, Gurvinder Gill 14) bt Sri Lanka 63 (Mohd. Naleer Umair 16, Kashi Juliyan 11).

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