National Basketball: A hard-fought win for Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu’s 80-62 victory over Indian Railways in a Group B men’s match of the 67th senior National basketball championships was anything but easy. Uttarakhand, continued its winning ways, toying with Chhattisgarh 65-36 to script its third successive win in Group B.

Tamil Nadu’s Rikin Pethani (14) jumps to score against Railways at the 67th Senior National Basketball Championship.   -  S. S. KUMAR

Tamil Nadu’s 80-62 victory over Indian Railways in a Group B men’s match of the 67th senior National basketball championships here on Tuesday might appear easy on paper. In reality, it was anything but that.

Tamil Nadu did relatively well in the first quarter, struggled in the second, was patchy in the third, before asserting its superiority in the fourth.

Earlier, Uttarakhand toyed with Chhattisgarh 65-36 to script its third successive win in Group B.

It was smooth-sailing in the first quarter for Tamil Nadu with Akilan showing off his passing prowess in adequate measure. Centre Rikin Pethani and forward Prasanna Venkatesh dazzled briefly with their shooting.

TN fumbled in the second quarter with several miss passes and poor conversion of offensive rebounds. From a handy lead of 30-17 midway, Tamil Nadu panicked only to allow Indian Railways to stage a comeback. A three-pointer by Railways’ Bijender Kumar and Himanshu Sharma followed by two quick two-pointers by Palpreet Singh Brar and Bijender Kumar made it 34-30. TN, however, regrouped quickly with baskets from Sivabalan and Prasanna.

Railways’ Palpreet showed why he was picked in the NBA draft recently with a brilliant overall performance. Around him, Railways tried its best to make a match out of it. His 10 defensive rebounds and seven blocks came at a crucial time and kept TN in check. However, TN’s consistent shooting saved the day.

The sore point was that neither forward Vineeth Revi Mathew nor Rikin appeared to be in control in defensive rebounds. TN and Indian Railways now have two wins and a loss each.

Uttarakhand, the two-time champion, has played to its strengths — relying on centre Amritpal Singh, pivot Murali Krishna and veteran forward Trideep Rai, without being overtly flashy. With three wins from three matches, including one over arch-rival Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand will have the upper hand when it takes on Indian Railways in its last group match.

Chhattisgarh doesn’t have a pivot or a centre to challenge Amritpal Singh or Murali Krishna, or a forward like Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. And, as a result there, was little challenge. Only P. Rajesh managed to score. The contest was one-sided in all the quarters: 25-7, 43-19, 57-25. Uttarakhand lowered its guard deliberately in the last quarter, where Chhattisgarh was able to score more: 11 to Uttarakhand’s 8.

The Indian Railway women’s team continued its unbeaten run with a 93-33 win over Punjab in a Group A tie. If the 27-time champion beats Telangana on Wednesday, it will top the Group.

The results: Men: Level 1: Group B: Uttarakhand 65 (Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 21) bt Chhattisgarh (Rajesh 14) 36; TN 80 (Akilan 20, Rikin Pethani 17, Prasanna Venkatesh 15, Sivabalan 10) bt Palpreet Singh Brar 24, Bijender Kumar 11).

Women: Level 1: Group A: Indian Railways 93 (Madhu Kumari 26, Sruthi Menon 18, M.J. Libina 12) bt Punjab 33; Telangana 61 (Ramya 16, Rachana 14, Suganya 12) bt Maharashtra 42 (Shireen Limaye 16, Sakshi 12).