Favourites Services and Railways clinch national basketball titles
Perennial favourites Services and Railways won the men's and women's titles respectively at the 66th Senior National Basketball Championship here on Saturday. Services defeated defending champions Uttarakhand 73-67 to emerge champions after a gap of nine years while the Railways women won 72-55 against Kerala.
Navaneetha P.U. of Railways was adjudged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the women's section, while Services point guard Joginder Singh was awarded the men's MVP title. Each MVP was given a cash prize of Rs.10,000.
The men's final was expected to be a hard-fought battle. Both teams came into the final on a 5-1 record, after knocking out Punjab and Tamil Nadu respectively in the semi-finals. The defending champions started off well, with their star player and India captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi (20 points) leading the charge.
Down by two points at the end of the first quarter, Services cranked up the heat with their point guard Joginder Singh (26 points) coming up with superb efforts from long range.
Joginder nailed six three pointers in the game to give Services a double-digit lead over Uttarakhand. The backcourt duo of Joginder and Narender Grewal (20 points) ensured that Services maintained a lead of more than 10 points through the third quarter.
Uttarakhand made a push for a comeback in the final quarter. Their centre Murali Krishna (24 points) was big inisde the opponents' circle, scoring crucial buckets down the stretch to cut down the Services lead.
Bhrighuvanshi also fought valiantly to bring his team back in the game, but the Services players maintained their composure down the stretch to stave off the Uttarakhand comeback attempt and capture the gold medal.
Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu defeated Punjab to secure third place. Tamil Nadu dominated the game in the second half and ran away to an 82-68 victory. Tamil Nadu forward Aravind Annadurai scored a game-high 33 points in the contest.
Among the women, Kerala and Railways entered the final with a perfect 6-0 record and were facing each other for the first time the tournament.
Kerala began the game well, with Jeena Scaria (14 points) scoring a bulk of the first quarter points for her team. Kerala ended the first period with a three-point lead.
Railways made a crucial change in their defensive strategy to begin the second quarter with tight man marking on Jeena and double-teaming her whenever she got the ball. This forced the rest of the Kerala players to step up on the offensive end. But only Kerala centre Stephy Nixon (17 points) was up to the task with little contribution from the rest of her teammates.
The Railways team had multiple weapons from inside the paint and outside, with four of their players ending up scoring in double digits. Veteran Railways point guard Anitha Paul-Durai connected on three three-pointers on her way to 16 points.
Railways centre Rajapriyadarshini had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Navaneeta was efficient off the bench for the Railways with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Coach Aparna Ghosh showcased the depth of the Railways team today with 28 points coming from their bench players. Railways blew the game wide open in the second half to cruise to victory, clinching the gold medal after a gap of two years.
Delhi women edged past Telangana 71-66 to capture third place. Raspreet Sidhu led the scoring for Delhi side with 21 points, while sisters Pratima Singh and Prashanti Singh contributed 19 and 16 points respectively. Telangana centre Anusha Anto scored 24 points.