Defending champion Tamil Nadu played to a plan and outsmarted strong contender Punjab 80-59 in its final Group-A clash of the senior National basketball at the Sidsar Sports Complex courts here on Wednesday.
Rikin Pethani’s presence did the team a world of good as Tamil Nadu managed to display its attacking and defensive skills to the fully-packed house. Rikin, who joined the team on Wednesday soon after his wedding, quickly got into his stride as it was a crucial match to decide the pool topper.
The defence was not only strengthened with him at the centre but he also stood strong in guarding Punjab’s big fish Amritpal Singh. Actually, it was a tussle between the top two centres in the country.
The first quarter was closely contested with the lead changing hands but the last three belonged to Tamil Nadu, which had good forwards and an equally good bench-strength to replace them time and again.
R. Hariram was at his best and so was P. Jeevananatham. The duo attacked both flanks with aplomb and scored baskets with ease. Akilan Pari and Justin Joseph came up with some sensible steals and feeds.
“Rikin is an intelligent player and now that he is back everything fell in place. Everybody started moving and connecting and whatever we planned worked well,” said C.V. Sunny, the Tamil Nadu coach.
Rikin, thrilled to play in his hometown, said, “I played for Gujarat here ten years ago and today I am back here playing for Tamil Nadu. Obviously, it’s a great feeling and I am happy that I was able to chip in.
The results: Men: Group A: Tamil Nadu 80 (R. Hariram 19, P. Jeevanantham 18, Rikin Pethani 11) bt Punjab 59 (Amritpal Singh 26, Jagdeep Singh 15).
Karnataka 98 (Shasankan J. Rai 23, A. Aravind 23, Anil Kumar 20, Rahul Sharath 14) bt Rajasthan 90 (Kamran Khan 35, Sharad Ddhich16, Yogesh Kaneriya 14).
Group B: Kerala 72 (Robin 19, Sejin Mathew 16, Jishnu G. Nair 13) bt Chandigarh 46 (Ravi Bhardwaj 13).
Women: Group A: Tamil Nadu 73 (Dharshini 17, S. Pushpa 13, S. Sathya 12, V. Srividhya 10) bt West Bengal 62 (Anjana Daisy 27, Kamalesh Jat 12).
Indian Railways 86 (Bhandavya 16, Renjini Peter 14) bt Delhi 36 (Tavleen Kaur 10).
Group B: Chhattisgarh 75 (Poonam Chaturvedi 42) bt Telangana 60 (Monika Pasa 17, Hemalatha 14, Anjusree12).
Kerala 73 (P.J. Anjana 18, Stephy Nixon 15, K.S. Poojamol 12, Aswathy Jayasankar 10) bt Uttar Pradesh 48 (Preethikumari 15, Minu George 13).