A new force in basketball

The victorious BSNL-Chennai Telephones team.-R. RAGU

IT was a proud moment for debutant BSNL- Chennai Telephones when it received the prestigious Magnolia Trophy, winning the ABC-L&T 27th all-India basketball tournament, organised by Ace Basketball Club at the Montfort indoor stadium, Chennai.

In a thrilling final, it defeated Indian Bank 74-71. Indian Bank led through the first three quarters but lost the initiative and the trophy in the final minutes. A big cheer rent the stadium for skipper and point guard Mohanraj of BSNL, who steered the team to victory and received his team's cash award of Rs.30,000. His team-mate, Saravanaraj, received the MVP award. It was the Telephones team's maiden title in a major all-India tournament and it remained unbeaten.

Defending Champion Indian Army, Indian Bank, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi and Writers, Chennai, were in Group `A', while Karnataka, ICF, Western Railway and BSNL-Chennai Telephones were in Group `B'.

Of the 12 group round robin matches seven were decided by close finishes: Army v Indian Bank (84-71); ICF v Karnataka (91-87); BSNL v Western Rly (78-72); DLW v Writers (54-49); DLW v Army 74-72; BSNL v Karnataka 88-84; and Army v Writers 59-52.

The top three teams in each group qualified for the knockout. DLW and BSNL qualified for the semis by virtue of topping their respective groups. The second and third placed teams in each group had to play on a knockout basis to qualify for the semi-finals. Army beat Karnataka 71-64, while Indian Bank defeated ICF 65-64 to earn a place in the semi-finals.

The semi-finals were one-sided with both BSNL and Indian Bank posting easy victories over Indian Army (81-64) and DLW (101-59) respectively.

On the final day, Indian Army secured the third place, beating DLW 61-58 thereby avenging its defeat earlier in the group.

Indian Bank, which had improved its performance, was well set to clinch the title when it led BSNL throughout the first three periods. At the beginning of the fourth quarter the Bankmen led 49-41. However, they faltered in the last two minutes and BSNL squeezed out a 62-58 victory. Mohanraj and Charles of BSNL helped their team win the trophy, while Indian Bank was well served by Moses Jeevananth and the fleet-footed Aravind. Mr. K. G. Hariharan, Executive Vice-President, L&T, the title sponsor, presented the Magnolia Trophy and the cash awards to the first four teams.