National C'ships: Karnataka beats Punjab in close battle

Karnataka secured a nail-biting 83-79 win over eight-time champion Punjab in a Group-A match in the Senior National Basketball Championships in Puducherry.

A. Aravind (second from left) scores a basket for Karnataka in its narrow win over Punjab.   -  S. S. Kumar

Anil Kumar may appear scrawny for the sport, but he makes up for it with his energy and sharp mind, and of course, wonderful shooting skills.

Anil has been effective and flamboyant in equal measure so far in the Senior National basketball championships here. On Sunday, he was at his fluent best in Karnataka’s thrilling 83-79 win over eight-time champion Punjab in a Group-A match here on Sunday.

With the victory, Karnataka is on course to top the group (two victories) with a match remaining. Later, in another Group-A contest, Haryana outscored Kerala 72-67.

It was not just Anil, who stole the show. His teammates, centre Aravind, forward Karthikeyan and ball-handler Rajesh Uppal produced stellar performances.

One of Punjab’s star senior players, Talwinderjeet Singh started off with a brilliant three-pointer in the very first minute. Interestingly, that was the last we saw of the speedy ball-handler-cum-sharp-shooter.

Each quarter was close and there was little to choose between the two teams. Karnataka led the first 19-15 only to fall behind 35-39 in the second, thanks primarily to some fine shooting by Punjab’s Rajvir Singh.

Aravind and Anil showed their prowess in the third quarter. The former was quite solid in defensive and offensive rebounds, and proved a handful in shooting. He scored the bulk of points in the third. At the stroke of the final whistle in the third, Karthikeyan’s basket gave the crucial lead for Karnataka at 60-58.

With around three minutes remaining and with the scores at 77-76 in the final quarter, Aravind and Anil took the match away from Punjab.

Error-prone

In the Kerala-Haryana match, it was the former’s propensity to commit fouls at regular intervals in the final quarter that did the team in.

Leading 59-56 going into the fourth quarter, Kerala appeared steady and looked like it could pull it off. Kerala’s downfall began with Albin Baby's foul on Haryana’s Pardeep when it was leading 65-63.

It resulted in two free-throws, which Pardeep converted. It then crumbled under pressure, committing another four fouls from which it couldn’t never really recover.

The results: Men: Group-A: Karnataka 83 (Anil Kumar 30, Aravind 28, Karthikeyan 11) bt Punjab 79 (Arshpreet Bhullar 14, Rajvir Singh 28, Gurvinder Singh 21).

Haryana 72 (N. Naveen 13, V. Vikas 10, P. Pardeep 18, V. Vinit 13) bt Kerala 67 (Ashwin Philip 11, Albin Baby 15, B. Gineeb 14).

Group-B: Tamil Nadu 90 (Vineeth Revi Mathew 17, Rikin Pethani 14, G. Sivabalan 11) bt Chhattisgarh 39 (Rudraksh 20).

Uttarakhand 98 (Amrit Pal Singh 30, Vishesh Briguvanshi 17, Anoop 12) bt Gujarat 50 (D. Pulva 13, S.Y. Shake 11, M. Singh 10).

Group-E: Odisha 72 bt Puducherry 61.

Women: Group-A: Indian Railways 67 (P. Anitha 19, Sitamani Tudu 15) bt Maharashtra 21 (Shireen Limaye 11).

Chhattisgarh 95 (Poonam Chaturvedi 40) bt Punjab 26.