Double for Tamil Nadu

The triumphant Tamil Nadu outfits. — Pic. K. RAMESH BABU-

TAMIL NADU called the tune yet another time in the South Zone basketball championships held recently at Yanam, the Andhra pocket of Pondicherry. In identical TN-Kerala final face-offs, the men posted an emphatic 84-50 victory while the women held out to a 71-59 verdict in a closely-fought contest.

Turning up in almost full strength and spearheaded by the all-round capabilities of Asian All Star Robinson, Tamil Nadu simply trampled upon the opposition like a marauding elephant crushing everything in its path.

Of the assembled teams, Kerala seemed the strongest adversary, but Tamil Nadu reserved its best against it. Robinson playing all the four quarters was ample indication that Tamil Nadu would not brook any challenge to its supremacy.

Sure enough, the final offered exhilarating fare, such as the near-perfect lay-up shots of Sukavineshwar that tapered off his fingers into the hoop. Playing a pivotal role, the young centre did the groundwork for an all-out assault.

Point guard Suresh's ball-handling was as eye-catching as forward and skipper Siva Sankar's forays down the centre. Robinson's mere presence was enough to shock and awe the opposition. Be it in deflecting Bobit Mathew's ring-bound attempt or in dunking, he gave Subhash Shenoy, assigned to mark him, a harrowing time.

Shenoy was a prolific scorer right through the five-day championship but had the hapless task of keeping tabs on Robinson. Joe Antony's runs reduced the margin for Kerala initially by means of drive-in baskets from solo runs and the odd three-pointer.

On the distaff side, point guard Sharmili Mathew patrolled the centre line when Tamil Nadu enforced the half-court press. Her outstretched hands along with those of the nearest fellow-defender formed a veritable canopy beyond which few of the rival forwards could advance.

Some tight marking checked Renjini Jose, but not for long. Her quarter century personal tally was evidence that the Kerala defence could not quite contain her. International Anitha seemed oblivious of the brace she wore from an operation on her knee, attacking with aplomb.

For Kerala, Ambily and Lajitha were the lynchpins of the attack. The former's scoring was consistent right through the championship. She may have been overutilised though, the fatigue catching up with her in the final as her scoring slackened.

Karnataka's absence robbed the event of much of its sheen, made up somewhat by the presence of the Sri Lanka and North Zone junior squads, the latter comprising promising players from Punjab and Delhi.

The local populace enjoyed the event thoroughly, braving the rain at times to pack every available inch in the GMC Balayogi Sports Complex.

A procession by players, officials and invitees provided an interesting start to the competition, while the inauguration was marked by prayers of three different faiths.

Felicitated on the occasion were former Indian basketball captains, Mohd. Rizwan and Hari Krishna Prasad and former Test cricketer Venkatapathy Raju. — A. Joseph Antony