The South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Men’s qualifiers kick started today at the swanky Thyagaraj Indoor Stadium, New Delhi. The winning team from SABA will qualify for the highly competitive FIBA Asia tournament to be held in Manila from August 1 to 11.
In an ideal scenario, eight teams should have taken part in this tournament. But teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan backed out at the last minute, leaving only Nepal and Afghanistan to fight it out with India for top honours.
The opening match today between India and Nepal proceeded along expected lines. India was supposed to win this game. But the ease of their victory pleasantly surprised even the harshest critics. The Indian Cagers dominated from start to finish and won by a whopping 83 point margin. The final scores read 109-26. India Centre Amritpal Singh made full use of his 7ft frame to gather numerous rebounds on both ends of the floor. He also scored 14 easy points in the paint and from the charity stripe. The two Air Force back-court teammates, Narender Kumar Grewal and Joginder Singh, chipped in with 14 points of their own. For Nepal, Sushil Gurung top scored with 9 points. Nepal next takes on Afghanistan tomorrow (Monday, June 3, 2013, 6:00 PM onwards) in a must win encounter. In what promises to be the most awaited final match of this tournament, India will play Afghanistan on Tuesday, June 4th, 6:00 PM onwards.
India had many plus points going into this game:
- A stronger support staff (Coach Scott Flemming, Assistant Coaches Jora Singh and GRL Prasad; Strength and Conditioning Coach Zak Penwell and his team of physiotherapists). Nepal had just a Head Coach and an Assistant Coach accompanying the side.
- A deep bench with multiple options at every position (Centres Amrit Pal and Rikin Pethani; Power Forwards Yadwinder and Amjyot; Point Guards Joginder Sharma, Sambhaji Kadam and the young Loveneet Singh; Shooting Guards/Small Forwards (Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Narender Grewal, Ranbir Singh, Vinay Kaushik and Basil Philip)
- A healthy mixture of youth (Ranbir Singh, Amjyot Singh, Loveneet Singh) and experience (Sambhaji, Yadwinder and Vishesh)
- Home Court Advantage
Nepal was also bothered by a gaping size disadvantage throughout this encounter. The mismatch in size meant that India had numerous second chance opportunities on the offensive end of the floor. On the defensive end, rebounds were secured easily, mainly through Amrit Pal and Rikin, who were quick to lob the ball ahead to the streaking guards led by Joginder and Narender. Thanks to India’s size advantage, easy transition buckets and crisp ball movement, India scored the bulk of its 109 points in the paint or from the free throw line.
He said, she said
“They were much shorter than me, so I could grab rebounds with less effort. Our Coach Scott Flemming has been emphasizing on defensive drills in practice. That approach helped us in today’s win.”
- Amrit Pal Singh, India’s 7ft Centre
“We will remain positive for the next game. Six of our players couldn’t come, so we had to change our squad at the last minute, which affected us. Afghanistan is as good a side as India.”
- Dinesh Chandra Nakarmi, Head Coach, Nepal Senior Men’s Team
India’s defensive energy: Coach Scott Flemming has focused on team defense drills ever since he took over as Coach last year. It was heartening to see the hustle and energy from the Indian players throughout the game, right till the final whistle. Indian players were quick in their close outs, double teamed to perfection, boxed out their men and grabbed all the loose balls. Nepal was restricted to a ridiculously low 26 points for the game.
India’s substitutions: All twelve India players were employed at some time or the other in this match. Testing India’s bench strength was a good strategy considering the upcoming game against the much tougher Afghanistan.
India led from beginning to the end in this game. The margin between the two teams kept ballooning. Quarter wise break up (24-8; 61-12; 88-22; 109-26).
Relive the exciting moments of the game with our blow by blow commentary here.