National basketball championship: TN women pull off a stunner

Star-studded Kerala faultered in the semifinals.

Driving force: S. Pushpa’s 21 points and 12 rebounds turned the tables in TN’s favour.   -  Vijay Soneji

Everybody had predicted a Kerala win. But, the Tamil Nadu women proved everyone wrong by defeating the star-studded opponent 65-49 to enter the women’s final of the 69th senior National basketball championship at the Sidsar Sports Complex courts here on Friday.

It is the second time that the team has made it to the final. It came up with a similar show in the Ludhiana Nationals in 2012. And, the Tamil Nadu camp rejoiced at having pulled off a stunner.

Pushpa sparkles

S. Pushpa sparkled for the team yet again. She scored a double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, which turned the tables in Tamil Nadu’s favour.

The presence of the formidable Stephy Nixon, who was in and out, for the most part, did no good for Kerala as the young guns from Tamil Nadu screened her pretty comfortably.

Dharshini and Nishanthi lacked the height but they stole the show with their speedy runs and fast breaks in the first two quarters. Tamil Nadu enjoyed a three-point edge at the halfway mark but surprised all with its third-quarter show in which it increased the margin to 16 points at 59-43.

P.S. Jeena with a double of 14 rebounds and 23 points worked hard to restore some pride in the last quarter but the road to recovery was long and hopeless for Kerala.

Tamil Nadu will now take on defending champion Indian Railway, which pounded an off-colour Chhattisgarh. Poonam Chaturvedi, the championship’s top-scorer, for once found it tough to score freely but still managed 34 points.

“Our defence was good and Pushpa’s outstanding show coupled with Nishanthi’s ball control helped us score,” said R. Delhiraj, Tamil Nadu’s chief coach.

In the men’s semifinal, last year runner-up Services struggled a bit in the last quarter before overcoming a fighting Karnataka 81-75.

The results (semifinals):

Men: Services 81(Nikhil Kumar 22, Mahipal 21, Joginder 16, Hemant Sheoran 12) bt Karnataka 75 (A. Arvind 21, Harissh 19, Sashank Rai 14, Anil Kumar 10).

Women: Tamil Nadu 65 (S. Pushpa 21, Dharshini 13, Sathya 14) bt Kerala 49 (P.S. Jeena 23, P.G. Anjana 11, Poojamol 11).

Indian Railway 96 (Madhu Kumari 22, Shruthi Arvind 19, Bhandavia 17, Sitamani Tudu 12, Libina 10, Raja Priyadarshini 10) bt Chhattisgarh 55 (Poonam Chaturvedi 34).

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