A sparkling display by Amritpal Singh and Indian captain Jagdeep Singh helped Punjab Police edge out last year's runner-up Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Chennai, 69-65 and enter the men's final of the 26th Federation Cup basketball championship at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, here on Saturday.
The game was close all through, but it was Punjab Police's solid defence, especially in the last quarter, that won the day for them.
With a strong zone defence, Punjab Police did not allow the IOB players much space to move under the basket.
The Chennai players appeared uncomfortable and when they did move in, they were off target often.
Amritpal Singh, the Punjab Police centre, was a tower of strength in the defence, plucking rebounds and rushing to score at the other end even before IOB could settle down.
Backing him up nicely were Jagdeep and point guard Amanjot Singh. The scores were level at 25 and 33 and IOB went ahead 40-37 when the seasoned Mihir Pandey scored a beauty with a turnaround jumper in the third quarter.
Around this time, there were some lovely passes between Vineeth Ravi Mathew and Aravind and the left-hander Rikin Prathani which ended in baskets.
The teams were tied at 59-59 with about two-and-half minutes to go, but IOB committed a series of fouls under pressure.
With Amritpal and Jagdeep converting them coolly, the Chennai men became desperate and let the game slip away.
Later, ONGC (Dehradun) defeated Central Excise (Kochi) 47-44 to enter the final. ONGC, which included internationals Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh, was trailing 20-24 at half-time.
S. Rly. women in final
Meanwhile, Southern Railway will meet defending champion Chhattisgarh in the women's final. Southern Railway, powered by internationals Geethu Anna Jose and Anitha Pauldurai, defeated Delhi 63-51, while Chhattisgarh staved off a strong challenge from host Kerala at 70-67.
The results: Semifinals: Men: Punjab Police 69 (Amritpal Singh 24, Jagdeep Singh 23, Amanjot Singh 10) bt IOB (Chennai) 65 (Vineeth Ravi Mathew 17, Mihir Pandey 16, Rikin Prathan 10); ONGC (Dehradun) 47 bt Central Excise (Kochi) 44.
Women: Southern Railway 63 (Geethu Anna Jose 24, Anitha Pauldurai 16) bt Delhi 51 (Raspreet Sidhu 17, Pratima Singh 11, Akansha Singh 11); Chhattisgarh 70 (Anju Larkha 29, Kavitha 19, Seema Singh 15) bt Kerala 67 (P.S. Jeena 23, Seena Joseph 11, Ashey Mathew 10).