PUNE: Services overcame holder Uttaranchal 73-70 in a men's Group A match of the 56th senior National basketball championships at the Shri Shiv Chatrapathi Kreedapeet, near here on Friday.
It was Sambhaji Kadam's long-ranger which helped Services go into the fourth quarter with a 53-50 advantage. And it was the unheralded Sai Venkatesh, who came off the bench in the final seconds, who found the hoop to help his team take a 73-70 decisive lead, which also proved to be the winning margin.
This was Uttaranchal's second loss in three matches and the reigning champion will have to dig deep into its reserves if it is to make its presence felt in this edition of the championships.
The match looked defence oriented and the Services' men looked better equipped in this respect. But the tight marking also resulted in fouls galore which saw three Services players - Phool Singh, S.M. Settu and even Jaswant - making their exit with five personal fouls. But in Jairam Jat and Faizal the armymen had the resources to fight back.
Suresh Kumar Ranot was easily the pick of the Uttaranchal players. The burly lad proved effective in marking out his man and also came up with timely conversions to keep his team in the hunt. Shabeer Ahmed and Muralikrishnan too did their bit but were given little room under the board.
The lead kept changing hands till halftime. Services bungled repeatedly under the boards in the third quarter enabling Uttaranchal to take control. But at 50-50 Sambhaji Kadam's long-ranger with barely two seconds to go helped Services get a morale boosting lead (53-50) going into the deciding quarter.
Here again Uttaranchal clawed its way back with Suresh and Mohit Bhandari chipping in but the ONGC lads ran out of time after Sai Venkatesh, coming in for Jaswant, found the hoop to get the decisive lead.
Delhi women, with a distinct height advantage over the rest of the teams in this championship, overpowered Kerala 91-60. Delhi and Rajasthan men also made it to the knock-out stage. While Delhi will play Kerala in the pre-quarterfinals, Rajasthan will lock horns against MP to make it to the last eight.
In the women's section, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have been relegated while Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have made it to the knock-out stage.
The results: Men: Group A: Indian Railway 100 (Mahender Singh 13,Trideep Rai 12, Mahipal Singh 10, Ethiraj 10) bt AP 49 (P. Santosh 25, Amrit Raj 10). HT: 40-28.
Kerala 113 (Subhash Shenoy 35, Manoj 20, Shinumon 12) bt AP 54 (Shiva Reddy 20, Nihal Yadav 12, Nagraj 11). HT: 55-30.
Services 73 (Arokkiaraj 16, Jairam Jat 13, Faizal 18, Jaswant Singh 11) bt Uttaranchal 70 (Suresh Kumar 23, Shabeer Ahmed 16, K. Muralikrishna 14). HT: 37-36.
Group B: Punjab 77 (Talwinderjit Singh 17, Jaideep 12, Sharanjeet 11) bt Karnataka 43 (Srinivas Gowda 14). HT: 46-16.
MP 68 (Virender Joshi 18, Prakash Mishra 16, Kuldeep 10) bt Jharkhand 33 (Mohd Arif Altaf 18). HT: 41-6.
Group C: Rajasthan 96 (Mod Singh 28, Ashok Kumar 24, Lokesh Yadav 22) bt Assam 86 (Vinod Kumar 24, Ram AsreYadav 18, Vinod Choudhary 17). HT: 44-44.
Gujarat 89 (Nachiket Naik 17, Inder Vijay Singh 21, Harpal Singh 20) bt HP 50 (Varinder 22, Dilip Kumar 15). HT: 65-29.
Group E: Delhi 116 (Shiv Kumar 27, Sakhwinder 24) bt Haryana 87 (Praveen 25, Deepak 23). HT: 66-40.
Group F: Orissa 91 (Shashikant Mohanty 12, Ashok Kumar Naik 22, Sanjeeb Behura 13) bt Pondicherry 53 (Dahana 23, K. Ganesh 10). HT: 48-31.
Women: Group A: Punjab 74 (Aksha Ujwaney 18) bt HP 26 (Chunky 18) HT: 39-16.
Punjab 79 (Ashna 33, Kamaljeet Kaur 22) bt TN 48 (S. Kokila 16) HT: 41-23.
Group B: Chattisgarh 74 (Navneet Kaur 12, Akansha 12) bt AP 40 (V. Sujita 12, D. Sandhya 11). HT: 41-20.
Delhi 91 (Divya Singh 38, Sheeba Maggon 17, Prashanti Singh17, Asha Hegde 10) bt Kerala 60 (Anjana 16, Lajita 14, Nitya 13). HT: 48-29.
Group C: MP 66 (Nanda Jain 23) bt Chandigarh 34. HT: 45-13.
Group D: Maharashtra 72 (Ambili 12, Lincy Joseph 12) bt UP 31 (K.K. Shyala 12). HT: 31-11.