Chhattisgarh bags a double

CHHATTISGARH excelled both in application and grit to reign supreme in the 30th sub-junior National basketball that saw seven days of absorbing action at the multi-purpose Nurul Amin Stadium in Assam's Nagaon town. The State emerged best in both the boys' and girls' sections.

The Chhattisgarh boys' team with the trophy. — Pic. RITU RAJ KONWAR-

Doubling the achievement was the fact that the champion state accomplished a hat-trick of titles in the girls section. The boys' team took the cue and pipped the overwhelming favourite host Assam in a photo finish. Another unique thing was both the Chhattisgarh team's remained undefeated throughout.

An assessment of Chhattisgarh's performance will definitely put sustained planning and dedication on part of the officials and administrators as the chief reason behind the success. While it was the State that earned the pride, the feat was realised through the efforts of one city, Bhilai. The girls' coach Rajesh Patel, who has been with the team on all three occasions, opined that "the distinction gained by his wards was the result of Bhilai Steel Plant's financial and infrastructural support. Not to forget the efforts of the local basketball association that evolved a sustained round-the-year training programmes for various age-groups". Bhilai definitely is the nerve centre of basketball in Chhattisgarh as 90 per cent of the players are from Bhilai.

In the boys' section, host Assam was in resounding form and had a smooth passage till the final where it was brought crashing down in just one super session of attacking display by Chhattisgarh. The host got packed stands always and there was a considerable support from the local youth.

Madhya Pradesh came in as the pre-tournament favourites defending the title in the boys' section and as the losing finalist in the girls' section. The contest — held in a league-cum-knock-out format — presented a very healthy participation with 24 teams in the boys' section and 19 states in the girls' section getting off the start-line. There were a total of 73 league matches held over four days and two best teams each from the five groups in both girls' and boys' sections went to the knock-out phase starting with the pre-quarterfinals (pitting the two group `E' qualifiers and the runners-up of groups `C' & `D'). The league stage saw almost all the fancied teams making the knock-out stage. The boys section had Assam (8 points) leading group `A' while defending champion Madhya Pradesh (6), which was stunned by the host in the biggest upset of the league stage, was the runner-up. The other teams moving up in the order from the subsequent groups were: group `B' — Mizoram (8), Punjab (6); group `C' — Chhattisgarh (8), Manipur (6); group `D' — Orissa (8), Tamil Nadu (6); group `E' (having four teams) — Andhra Pradesh (6) and Kerala (6).

The girls' league saw Chhattisgarh (6) and Uttar Pradesh (4) taking the top two positions from group `A'. Interestingly these two teams kept their league stage billings intact and met again to decide the winner. Chhattisgarh, which had a narrow three-point (29-26) win over Uttar Pradesh in the group league, beat the same opponent by 15 points (59-44) in the fight for the title. The other teams moving up were: group `B' — Madhya Pradesh (6), Tamil Nadu (4); group `C' (three-teams) — Maharashtra (4), Uttaranchal (2); group `D' — Andhra Pradesh (6), Jharkhand (4); group `E' — Kerala (6) and Punjab (4).

While the league stage saw the teams from South — which has a wide following of the sport — doing well, the knock-out saw them in poor light. In the boys' section all three teams — Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — were halted by the quarterfinal stage. The first two lost in the pre-quarters while Andhra was sent packing by last year's runner-up Mizoram. The situation was better in the girls' section where Kerala and Tamil Nadu, that beat Andhra Pradesh in the quarters, progressed to the semifinals. With Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh producing inspired performances, none of the two could book a berth in the title round. In the boys' section, Chhattisgarh began to show its survival instincts and displayed both tact and nerves overcoming a speedy Mizoram by two points. Orissa, despite showing a grand recovery recording 14 points in the final quarter of the match, could not produce the finish as Assam stole a six-point win in the semis.

The final day saw the best from Chhattisgarh. On the road to a double, the girls covered the first milestone thrashing Uttar Pradesh while the boys' team realised a much more difficult task snatching victory from the host, which had both form and a partisan crowd favouring it, in a thrilling and close final. The Chhattisgarh girls were kept engaged by Uttar Pradesh in the first half, which saw the former enjoying a slender lead of three points (28-25). Chhattisgarh, came up with a super show in the third quarter scoring 18 points with a fine display of accuracy and speed. This was enough to seal the match in Chhattisgarh's favour. Shoshan Tirkey was the pick of the Chhattisgarh scorers netting a total of 19 points of which 10 came in the third quarter alone. Kavita was the other leading scorer with 17 points to her individual tally.

The Chhattisgarh boys' team, trailing Assam in all the first three quarters, produced the form just when it mattered — the deciding 10 minutes. Trailing by six points at the end of the third quarter (28-34), Chhattisgarh launched the real assault in the fourth. Chhattisgarh with sustained scoring wiped the deficit and took the lead (at 35-34) for the first time in the match. Showing good nerves Mohan Kumar converted a free-throw following a foul and then scored a two-pointer when his second attempt rebounded off the board, to realise a crucial lead that was converted into a win. Kiranpal Singh top scored for Chhattisgarh with 10 points but Kumar was definitely the hero of the evening with his performance in the last quarter. Assam paid the price for complacency. The host started playing lax having the title in sight and made the mistake of playing too defensive in the end. This gave Chhattisgarh all the advantage and it made full use of that.

The results: Boys': Final:

Chhattisgarh 41 (Kiranpal Singh 10, Durgesh Kumar 6) bt Assam 38 (S. Rahaman 12, Shiba Sharma 6).Semifinals: Assam 44 (Shiba Sharma 11, M. Ram 8) bt Orissa 38 (S.K. Sahoo 14, R.N. Nayak 6); Chhattisgarh 44 (Kiranpal Singh 15, Pratham Singh 14) bt Mizoram 42 (Henry Lallawmzuala 14, Lalsawmtluanga 12).

Standings: 1. Chhattisgarh, 2. Assam, 3. Mizoram, 4. Orissa, 5. Andhra Pradesh, 6. Manipur, 7. Punjab, 8. Madhya Pradesh, 9. Kerala. 10. Tamil Nadu.

Girls': Final:

Chhattisgarh 59 (Soshan Tirkey 19, Kavita 17) bt Uttar Pradesh 44 (Preeti Singh 13, Renu Maurya 9). Semifinals: Chhattisgarh 60 (Manjeet Kaur 20, Manjeeta Kaur 12) bt Tamil Nadu 32 (S.Anitha 12, Sangeetha 6); Uttar Pradesh 42 (Renu Maurya 14, Pratima Singh 8) bt Kerala 30 (Ashey Mathew 6, Rajisha 7).

Standings: 1. Chhattisgarh, 2. Uttar Pradesh, 3. Kerala, 4. Tamil Nadu, 5. Punjab, 6. Maharashtra, 7. Andhra Pradesh, 8. Madhya Pradesh, 9. Uttaranchal, 10. Jharkhand

Amitabha Das Sharma