Basketball Nationals: TN overpower Railways

TN and Railways were slow off the blocks, with the latter scoring the first field-goal of the match after nearly four minutes. The players eventually got into the groove, and the first-half finished with Tamil Nadu having a slender lead at 31-30.

Rikin Pethani (white jersey) thwarts Akashdeep Hazra's defence to score a point.   -  M. A. Sriram

Tamil Nadu overcame a nervy start to beat Indian Railways 71-44 in their opening fixture of the 66th Senior national basketball championship, held at the Chamundi Vihar Stadium indoor courts here on Saturday.

The two sides were slow off the blocks, with Railways scoring the first field-goal of the match after nearly four minutes. The players eventually got into the groove, and the first-half finished with Tamil Nadu having a slender lead at 31-30.

Tamil Nadu then raced ahead in the third-quarter, with its centres Rikin Pethani (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Annadurai Aravind (15 points) stamping their authority. Pethani took advantage of some lax marking by his opposite number, Akashdeep Hazra, emerging the clear winner in the battle of the big men. Aravind gave Pethani able company in the paint, allowing the side to gain an assailable 60-38 lead by the end of the third-quarter. Shooting guard Pratham Singh (14 points), when called into action, pulled the trigger to good effect.

In another fixture, point guard Prakash Mishra recorded an incredible 47 points to guide Madhya Pradesh to a 78-65 win over West Bengal. Prakash sank eight of his 10 three-point attempts, and proved unstoppable from inside the arc as well.

In the women's section, favourites Chhattisgarh suffered a shock 67-54 loss to Kerala. P. S. Jeena (21 points) tore into the Chhattisgarh defence, helping Kerala stay ahead on the scoreboard for nearly the entire duration of the encounter. Chhattisgarh's towering centre, the 6'9” Poonam Chaturvedi, did score 16 points, but could not get the defending champion over the line.

Results:

Men:-

AP 77 (Naveen Kumar 30, Verma Kumar 11) bt Jharkhand 28; Services 95 (J. Jairam 14, Joginder Singh 11, S.M. Setu 11, Singh Mahipal 11) bt Telangana 44; TN 71 (Rikin Pethani 18, Annadurai Aravind 15, Pratham Singh 14) bt Indian Railways 44 (Palpreet Singh 13, Himanshu Sharma 10); MP 78 (Mishra Prakash 47, R. Mahendrasing 12) bt WB 65 (S. Manpreet 24, J. Sagar 11); Odisha 50 (Ashok Nayak 11, Sahid Khan 11) bt Puducherry 40 (Hari Krishan 16, P.G. Vinod 12); Gujarat 82 (Goti 18, Dhawal 17, Dishant 15) bt Arunachal Pradesh 32 (Surit Singh 10).

Women:-

Telangana 73 (R. Ramya 21, Anusha Anto 16, P. Divya 14, L. Suganya 10) bt MP 42 (Sakshi Pandey 15, Nimdo Bhutia 13); Delhi 72 (S. Prashanti 19, S. Pratima 16, Raspreet 13) bt TN 50 (Rajini Peter 11); Kerala 67 (P.S. Jeena 21, P.S. Neenumol 12) bt Chhattisgarh 54 (Poonam Chaturvedi 16, Saranjeet Kaur 14); Rajasthan 42 (Nisha Sharma 21) bt Uttarakhand 16; Odisha 52 (Rajashreeswain 16) bt Tripura 11; Gujarat 42 (Metha 13, Godhani 11) bt Puducherry 18.