For a change, it was the women’s semifinal matches that held the attention of one and all in the 67th Senior National basketball championships here on Friday.
Of the two exciting last-four contests in the women’s category, it was the one between Telangana and Indian Railways that took the cake.
Playing only its third Nationals, Telangana played with a lot of heart to upstage defending champion 74-56 and set up a clash with Kerala, which piped Chhattisgarh 72-70 in the other last four tie. This is Telangana’s best-ever performance at the Nationals.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu scripted facile wins over Punjab and Rajasthan respectively in the men’s semifinals. While Uttarakhand dismantled Punjab’s defence in its 78-53 win, Tamil Nadu put Rajasthan in its place with a 108-77 victory.
Interestingly, Telangana’s Ramya, Anusha Anto and Gayatri it was learnt were “unfairly ignored” for selection into the Railways’ team. And as one from the Telangana’s team stated, “Railways loss has been Telangana’s gain.”
Ramya has been a huge strength to Telangana, with her shooting prowess. And Gayatri, too, has been tireless with her drive-ins and lay-ups.
The two formed the key to Telangana’s victory against the 27-time champion. This is the second instance in last three decades that the Indian Railway women’s team has not reached the final; the last time being the Bhilwara Nationals in 2014-15.
The Kerala-Chhattisgarh women’s match went to the wire. Kerala girls were quicker and each one contributed in conversion of baskets. On the other hand, Chhattisgarh reliance on Poonam Chaturvedi came a cropper.
Though the 6’11” hoopster did her best, Kerala successfully stymied her efforts. Statistically, barring the second quarter which Kerala led 24-11, it trailed in all the quarters.
Looking for its third title, Uttarakhand was never tested by Punjab at any quarter. With Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Trideep Rai scoring at regular intervals and Amritpal Singh standing as a ‘tower' during offensive and defensive rebounds, Uttarakhand sailed along smoothly.
Barring the first quarter which was close (17-14), Uttarakhand had a handy lead in the remaining three. Though Punjab’s Talwinderjit Singh scored with his drive-ins and lay-ups, he couldn't get support support from others.
It was the veteran Pratham Singh’s brilliant performance in the first quarter that set the stage for TN’s win. His two-three pointers followed by few drive-ins that gave the team a load of confidence. Vineeth Revi Mathew, Rikin Pethani and the youngsters came up with better performances to settle the issue in TN’s favour.
The results (Semifinals):
Men: Uttarakhand 78 (Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 20, Trideep Rai 15, Amritpal Singh 12) bt Punjab 53 (Talwinderjit Singh Sahi 14). TN 108 (Rikin Pethani 20, Jeevanantham 24, Vineet Revi Mathew 10, Pratham Singh 11, Muinbek 10) bt Rajasthan 77 (B. Singh 17, Sharath Dadich 21, V. Kumar 15).
Women: Telangana 74 (Gayathri 24, Ramya 17, Suganya 17) bt Indian Railways 56 (Sruthi Menon 14). Kerala 72 (P.G. Anjana 20, P.S. Jeena 20, Pooja Mol 12) bt Chhattisgarh 70 (Poonam Chaturvedi 36, Aakansha Singh 15).