TN powers its way past Punjab

Rikin Pethani’s presence did the team a world of good as Tamil Nadu managed to display its attacking and defensive skills to the fully-packed house.

Tamil Nadu hoopsters in action against Punjab at the Sidsar Sports Indoor Complex at Bhavnagar on Wednesday.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Defending champion Tamil Nadu played to a plan to outsmart strong contender Punjab 80-59 in its final Group A clash at the Sidsar Sports Complex courts here on Wednesday.

Rikin Pethani’s presence did the team a world of good as Tamil Nadu managed to display its attacking and defensive skills to the fully-packed house. Rikin, who joined the team today soon after his wedding, quickly got into the act as it was a crucial clash to decide the pool topper.

The defence was not only strengthened with him at the center but he also stood strong in guarding Punjab’s big fish Amritpal Singh.

Actually, it was a tussle between the top two centres in the country. And Rikin’s wife (Pooja Pethani) quietly watched the whole thing from the sidelines.

The first quarter was closely contested with the lead changing hands but the last three quarters belonged to Tamil Nadu, which had good forwards and an equally good bench strength to replace them time and again.

R. Hariram was at his best and so was P. Jeevananatham. The duo attacked both flanks with aplomb and scored baskets with ease. Akilan Pari and Justin Joseph came up with some sensible steals and feeds and that mattered much for the team towards the end.

“Rikin is an intelligent player and now that he is back everything fell in place. Everybody started moving and connecting and whatever we planned worked well,” said C.V. Sunny, the Tamil Nadu coach.

Rikin was obviously thrilled to play here as it was his hometown. “I played for Gujarat here ten years ago and today I am back here playing for Tamil Nadu. Obviously, it’s a great feeling and I am happy that I was able to chip in for the team,” he said.

In the women’s section, defending champion Indian Railway proved their superiority yet again scoring a thumping 86-36 win over Delhi.

Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the other teams gunning for the crown, also coasted to comfortable wins in their respective groups.

The results

Men: Group A: Tamil Nadu 80 (R. Hariram 19, P. Jeevanantham 18, Rikin Pethani 11) bt Punjab 59 (Amritpal Singh 26, Jagdeep Singh 15).

Karnataka 98 (Shasankan J. Rai 23, A. Aravind 23, Anil Kumar 20, Rahul Sharath14) bt Rajasthan 90 (Kamran Khan 35, Sharad Ddhich16, Yogesh Kaneriya 14).

Group B: Kerala 72 (Robin 19, Sejin Mathew16, Jishnu G. Nair 13) bt Chandigarh 46 (Ravi Bhardwaj 13).

Women: Group A: Tamil Nadu 73 (Dharshini 17, S. Pushpa 13,S. Sathya 12, V. Srividhya 10) bt West Bengal 62 (Anjana Daisy 27, Kamalesh Jat 12).

Indian Railway 86 (Bhandavya 16, Renjini Peter14) bt Delhi 36 (Tavleen Kaur 10).

Group B: Chhattisgarh 75 (Poonam Chaturvedi 42) bt Telangana 60 (Monika Pasa17, Hemalatha 14, Anjusree12). Kerala 73 (P.J. Anjana 18, Stephy Nixon15, K.S. Poojamol 12, Aswathy Jayasankar 10) bt Uttar Pradesh 48 (Preethikumari 15, Minu George 13).