FIBA Women’s Asia Cup: India lifts Div B title

With this win, India has now booked an elite Division A spot in the next edition of FIBA women’s Asia Cup.

The victory was made all the more special because the host looked lost in the first three-quarters.   -  K Murali Kumar

Tournament final. Score tied. Last play of the match. Fate of the championship in your hands. This is stuff of basketball dreams.

Shireen Limaye got to live the dream, and awoke with tears of joy. In the FIBA women’s Asia Cup final, against Kazakhstan, the two sides were locked at 73-73, with 21 seconds remaining. Shireen ran the final play almost all on her own, made some space for herself, and took a 20-foot jump-shot. The ball sailed through the air and hit the bottom of the net. The clock ran out, and Shireen collapsed to the floor.

The huge, vocal Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium crowd absolutely erupted. That magic moment gave India the Division B title, and more importantly, booked the national team an elite Division A spot in the next edition of this tournament.

The victory was made all the more special because the host looked lost in the first three-quarters. The taller, stronger, fitter Kazakhstan players dominated the offensive and defensive rebound stats.

Kondrakova Nadezhda, a 6’3” centre, caused all sorts of damage on both ends of the court. At the start of the fourth-quarter, the visitor led 58-50, and seemed in complete control.

India started the final period with energy, with P.S. Jeena (20 points), Grima Merlin (14 points) and Shireen scoring quick buckets.

The noise in the venue got louder, and this got the Kazakhstan hoopsters on a knife's edge. Easy layups were missed, and turnovers came in plenty. The Central Asian unit eventually wilted under pressure, and watched the trophy slip from its grasp.

In a similarly nail-biting finish, Japan defeated Australia 74-73 in the Division A summit clash. Australia had a chance to seal the title in the dying seconds, when Marianna Tolo found herself unmarked near the board. A poor pass, however, dragged her wide. Belinda Snell then took an awkward shot with a second to go, but could not convert.

Basketball Federation of India (BFI), meanwhile, announced a cash award of ₹10 lakh for the Indian team.

The results:

Division A:

Japan 74 (Mizushima Saki 26, Miyazawa Yuki 11, Nagaoka Moeka 10) bt Australia 73 (Griffin Kelsey 30, Marianna Tolo 13).

Division B:

Final: India 75 (P.S. Jeena 20, Shireen Limaye 17, Grima Merlin 14, Raspeet Sidhu 13) bt Kazakhstan 73 (Kondrakova Nadezhda 30, Zalina Kurazova 17).

Most valuable player: Kelsey Griffin (Australia)

Final standings:

Division A:

1. Japan, 2. Australia, 3. China, 4. South Korea, 5. Chinese Taipei, 6. New Zealand, 7. Philippines, 8. North Korea (relegated).

Division B:

1. India (promoted), 2. Kazakhstan, 3. Lebanon, 4. Uzbekistan, 5. Singapore, 6. Fiji.