Youth National Basketball: Kerala boys, girls enter final stretch

The Kerala girls' team secured a stunning 74-70 win over Punjab before the boys' team edged Rajasthan 65-62.

Pranav Prince of Kerala (right) going for the basket during the match between Kerala boys and Rajasthan boys.   -  M. Periasamy

Kerala stormed into the final in both the boys and girls section of the 36th Youth National basketball championship at the PSG Tech Indoor Stadium courts here on Monday.

Interestingly, both the matches went down to the wire and, with it, saw the exit of the defending champions. It was the girls who started it all by scoring a stunning 74-70 win over Punjab.

Kerala dominated the board in the first two quarters and raced to a comfortable 10-point lead at 36-26. But the Punjab girls, fighters as they were, inched their way up slowly and steadily in the third. They shot eight baskets in five minutes and that was because of Kerala's extra cautious approach.

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They had reasons to be worried, thanks to the fouls committed. This made the defence weak and, Punjab cashed in on the chance to score baskets at will while Kerala managed just six points.

With a one-point edge going into the final ten minutes, Punjab pressed hard and so did Kerala. The latter made it a point to closely guard Harsimran Kaur (39 pts), Punjab's shining star. Three of them were busy guarding her and after successfully scuttling her scoring chances, Kerala went into the attack through Ann Mary Zacharia (30 pts), the team's big star. She carried the responsibility on her shoulders comfortably to see the team through.

Inspired by the performance of the girls, the Kerala boys came up with similar show defeating a fighting Rajasthan 65-62. The team did not have any big names in the list but were confident of pulling it off especially after they stunned Punjab in the quarterfinals the other day. It was tough though but it handled the pressure situation much better than its opponent to earn a place in the final.

—TN girls in final—

Later in the day, the Tamil Nadu girls hammered an off-colour Rajasthan 57-34 and set up a final showdown with Kerala.

The results (semifinals)

Boys: Kerala 65 (Nithin Baby 10, Pranav Prince 21, Jim Paul Kothulil 16) bt Rajasthan 62 (Shivam Kumawat 16, Digvijay Singh Shekhawat 27).

Girls: Kerala 74 (Ann Mary Zacharia 30) bt Punjab 70 (Harsimran Kaur 39, Kavya Singla 13). Tamil Nadu 57 (Sathya 25, Sandhiya 10) bt Rajasthan 34 (Rashi Khotani 10, Manvi Srivastava 10).