Stamping their authority over basketball in India, both the boys and the girls under-18 squads from the state of Chhattisgarh demolished their way through the 63rd Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls in Puducherry, ending the 8-day tournament by lifting the winner’s trophies in both divisions on Wednesday, May 30th. The tournament, which tipped off on May 23rd at Puducherry’s Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium, concluded with two memorable final games last night.
Organised by the Puducherry State Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the championship welcomed 51 participating teams from all across the country.
Chhattisgarh Boys’ faced a stiff challenge from another star-studded squad – Punjab – in the Boys’ finale on Wednesday. After trailing by 8 in the first quarter, Chhattisgarh regrouped to take a halftime lead. The second half featured exciting back-and-forth basketball, showcasing the quality of the two deserved finalists, before Chattisgarh survived a late Punjab comeback to win 63-61. Continuing their good play throughout the tournament, Chhattisgarh’s Shyam Sunder (23) and Ajay Pratap Singh (20) set the tone for the winners in the final, too. Punjab’s experienced young star Love Neet Singh had 30 points in a valiant effort.
The Girls’ game was a relatively easier affair for Chhattisgarh, who featured the most imposing lineup of big name young players in the tournament. Playing against a tricky Maharashtra side, Chhattisgarh were led by Poonam Chaturvedi (24) – India’s tallest female basketball player – and Sharanjeet Kaur (23) to take a double digit halftime lead and then finish the game with an 89-73 victory.
Chhattisgarh were in top form – in both the divisions – throughout the tournament. The Boys were undefeated while the Girls only lost one game to Tamil Nadu in the group stage.
The third/fourth place playoffs were also held earlier on Wednesday. Animesh and Amit Kanarjee scored 16 points each for Madhya Pradesh Boys who set the pace against Kerala throughout the game to win 62-48. In the Girls’ division, last year’s winners Kerala were forced to settle for bronze after they beat neighbouring state Tamil Nadu 71-34. Kerala were led by budding young superstar Jeena PS (18) and Anjana PG (16).
A day earlier, Kerala’s Girls had lost in a memorable semi-final game against eventual winners Chhattisgarh. After leading by just one point at halftime, Chhattisgarh made all the big plays in the second half to inch their lead forward and claim a 84-71 victory. Jeena PS (32) came up big for Kerala again and Grima Merun Baby poured in 23. But the battle was won by Chhattisgarh who featured a multi-faceted attack led by Sharanjeet Kaur (22), Anjana Daisy Ekka (18), and Sangeetha Kaur (17). In the other Girls’ semi, Maharashtra won a thriller in the last moments 57-55 over Tamil Nadu. Sneha Rajguru had 16 for Maharashtra while R. Raja Priya poured in 22 for TN.
The Boys semi-finals weren’t a very close affair: Chhattisgarh’s Akash Bhasin (21) and Shyam Sunder (16) set the tone for a comfortable win over MP 74-60, who got 18 points from Amit Kanarjee. Punjab rallied behind Palpreet Singh Brar (22) to blow out Kerala 77-40.
Girls: Chhattisgarh (Poonam Chaturvedi 24, Sharanjeet Kaur 23) bt. Maharashtra 89-73 (20-16, 22-12, 18-14, 29-31).Boys: Chhattisgarh (Shyam Sunder 23, Ajay Pratap Singh 20) bt. Punjab (Love Neet Singh 30) 63-61 (11-19, 23-13, 16-13, 13-16).
Third/Fourth Place Playoffs
Girls: Kerala (Jeena PS 16, Anjana PG 16, Angelina 14) bt. Tamil Nadu 71-34 (27-9, 16-10, 15-4, 13-11).Boys: Madhya Pradesh (Animesh 16, Amit Kanarjee 16) bt. Kerala 62-48 (16-12, 11-8, 15-10, 20-18).
Best Player Awards
Girls: Sangeetha Kaur (Chhattisgarh)Boys: Ajay Pratap Singh (Chhattisgarh)
1. Chhattisgarh2. Maharashtra3. Kerala4. Tamil Nadu5. Uttar Pradesh
1. Chhattisgarh2. Punjab3. Madhya Pradesh4. Kerala5. Delhi