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Junior Nationals: Defending champs Kerala head back to Finals, MP upset Punjab

Junior Nationals: Defending champs Kerala head back to Finals, MP upset Punjab

Battling through a tricky Semi-Final on Monday afternoon, reigning champions Kerala girls booked a spot at the Final of the 2011 Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls at the Thyagraj Stadium in New Delhi. Last year’s boys’ defending champions Punjab were upset by MP who earned an enthralling comeback victory in the semi-final.

The game of the day took place between Kerala and Chhattisgarh girls, as Kerala’s Poojamol KS hit a game-tying shot with 13 seconds to go to take the game into over-time and Kerala survived to win the thrilling semi one point at the end of the added five minutes. Kerala’s superstar youngster had an incredible performance, finishing with 33 points and 29 rebounds.

It was no cakewalk for Kerala, as their dream of a repeat victory was nearly vanquished by an inspired Chhattisgarh team, who stretched the game into overtime. Chhattisgarh themselves are a formidable opponent, and after losing in a blowout to Kerala in a group game earlier in the tournament, were seeking revenge in the Semi-Final. They nearly pulled it off, too: behind some sharp-shooting by point guard Kavita A. and dominant play by Anjana Daisy Ekka, Chhattigarh raced to a 37-27 halftime lead.

A simple tactical change sparked Kerala’s comeback – Kerala’s coach deputised Riya Chacko to defend Kavita, and slowly, Chhattisgarh turned things around completely in the third, outscoring 24-10 to take a slim lead. Kerala’s star scorer Jeena PS was once again a menace in the post, scoring and rebounding at will. The game flip-flopped around again in the fourth, and with Chhattisgarh holding a two-point lead in the dying seconds, it was young Poojamol who hit the game tying shot to take the game into the extra period. In OT, Kerala rediscovered their defense to shut Chhattisgarh out and escape with a 75-74 win.

For Kerala, Jeena finished with the 33 and 29 stat on the night, while Poojamol had a good all round performance, scoring 13 points, 5 assists. Surya PR had 17 points and 10 rebounds. On the Chhattisgarh team, Anjana Ekka had a team high 33 points to go with 8 rebounds, and Kavita added 21 points of her own.

The boys’ semi-final was no less dramatic. Madhya Pradesh fell back early against the favourites Punjab. After trailing by five points at halftime, MP went on a great run in the third quarter, outscoring Punjab by 23-13, to flip the score around. The fourth quarter stayed close, but a heroic performance by Ankit Singh Parihar of MP, who scored 27 points to go with his 16 points, led the way for a 75-69 victory for his team. Kirti Goswami added 22 points with 8 rebounds for MP.

For Punjab, big man Loveneet Singh was again a great all round force, but got little help from his teammates in the second half. Loveneet finished with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, while hard-working wing-man Sunil Bajaj added 17 points.

Meeting Kerala in the Girls final tomorrow will be Tamil Nadu, who started their game against Karnataka on a dominating 14-1 run and never looked back. TN led by 21 points at the end of the first quarter, and Karnataka could never recover to make it a game thereafter. TN were led by the duo of Kirthi M (29 points) and Ramyaa R (26 points, 9 rebounds), as TN cruised to an easy 80-51 win.

Semi-Final Scores

Girls

Kerala (Jeena P.S 33, Surya P.R 17, Pooja Mol KS 13) bt. Chhattisgarh (Anjana Daisy Ekka 33, A.Kavita 21) 75-74 (16-13, 11-23, 24-10, 18-23, 6-5)

Tamil Nadu (Keerthi M 26, Ramaya R 26, Rajpriya Dhakshini 11) bt. Karnataka (Navaneetha PU 12, Sindhu L 12, Simonelle SD Souza 10) 80-51 (26-5, 13-18, 19-11, 22-17)

Boys

Madhya Pradesh (Ankit Singh Parihar 27, Kirti Goswami 22) bt. Punjab (Loveneet Singh 21, Sunil Bajaj 17, Gauravdeep Singh 11) 75-69 (16-19, 18-20, 23-13, 18-17).

Tamil Nadu vs. Chhattisgarh in progress

Finals – Tuesday, July 12th, 2011, from 3:30 PM onwards at the Thyagraj Indoor Stadium

Girls: Kerala vs. Tamil Nadu

Boys: Madhya Pradesh vs. W/O Tamil Nadu / Chattisgarh

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