Senior National Basketball Championship: Punjab men have the last laugh

Services was certainly a better side but Punjab outplayed it on height and some steady firing.

Punjab men in a jubilant mood after scoring over a strong Services in the final of the 69th Senior National basketball Championship at the Sidsar Sports Indoor Complex at Bhavnagar on Saturday.   -  Vijay Soneji

After shocking holder Tamil Nadu the other day, Punjab came back fresh to defeat last year’s runner-up Services 75-65 to emerge the men’s champion of the 69th Senior National basketball championship at the Sidsar Sports Complex courts on Saturday.

Services was certainly a better side but Punjab outplayed it on height and some steady firing. Arshpreet Singh Bhullar and Jagdeep Singh excelled both from the inside and the outside. They hardly missed anything but the presence of the towering Amritpal Singh made the
difference. He guarded the ring as if it was his own and Services found it hard to get past him. He even converted quite a few baskets with ease.

Thanks to their efforts, Punjab enjoyed an edge over its opponent in the first three quarters but Services shot back to change the script in the final quarter by taking a 62-60 lead. Its men were quick on their feet and attacked from both flanks as never before.

READ: TN women pull off a stunner

It was at this stage that the pressure was beginning to tell on Punjab, but a quick time out call by its coach Gurkirpal Dhillon changed the complexion of the game. Strategies were planned to apply the brakes on the Services’ forwards and they did exactly that to put
the team back on the victory track.

It was Punjab’s seventh title and the last time it cherished a similar victory was at Chennai in 2011.

Earlier, Indian Railways registered an 88-71 win over Tamil Nadu for the women’s crown. For the team, it is its 29th title and it came with a lot of sweat.

Tamil Nadu, with a bunch of young college girls, played freely from the start as if it had nothing to lose. It knew it was up against an experienced side but it played without fear.

The first two quarters were evenly fought but the Railways women made the best use of their rich experience to thwart Tamil Nadu, who played fresh and lively but lost a bit of gas towards the end.

Railways had a better bench as well and that helped the team last the whole distance. Its coach Satyabrata Nayak agreed that it was experience that helped them sail through.

“The Tamil Nadu girls are very young and I was impressed with the way they played. It’s a real good team,” he said.

Tamil Nadu’s coach Delhiraj was pleased with the effort of his girls. “I am satisfied with their gritty performance and I cannot ask for anything more,” he said.

Punjab’s Amritpal Singh and Tamil Nadu’s S. Pushpa walked with the Most Valuable Player awards in their respective categories.

The results

Men: Final: Punjab 74 (Arshpreet Singh Bhullar 24, Amritpal Singh 15, Jagdeep Singh 19) bt Services 65 (Joginder Singh 26, Isaac Thomas 11).

Third place: Tamil Nadu 84 (Muin Bek 20, Justin 19, Hariram 17, Jeevanantham 10, Rikin Pethani 10) bt Karnataka 65 (Rahul Sarathy 16, Jitender 17, Shashi Kumar 12).

Women: Final: Indian Railways 88 (Raja Priyadarshini 23, Navaneetha 16, Ramya 13, Sitamani Tudu 11, Bandaviya 11) bt Tamil Nadu 71 (Sathya 21, Dharshini 12, Pushpa 12, Nishanthi10).

Third place: Kerala 79 (P.S.Jeena 21, Poojamol 18, P.G. Anjana 13, Stephy Nixon 12, Kavitha Jose 11) bt Chhattisgarh 73 (Poonam Chaturvedi 41, Deepa 12, Seema Singh 12)
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