IOB, Chennai men and W. Rly. women bag titles

WINNING may have become a healthy habit with the basketball team of the Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai. It may have maintained an unbeaten record in every single match it has played since March 2001, but it is a challenge every time it gets on court to maintain its impressive record.

The triumphant IOB, Chennai men. -- Pics. RAJEEV BHATT-

The team asserted its class by performing a hat-trick of titles in the 31st all-India Master Prithvi Nath Sharma basketball tournament in New Delhi. Trailing 48-51 at halftime, IOB eventually powered to a 105-92 triumph against Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Dehradun, as it literally clinched the issue in the first six minutes on resumption by taking a 71-57 lead.

"We have won 85 matches in a row, and 19 tournaments in all, including two Federation Cups. We were without Shabeer Ahmed and Swaminathan here, but all the boys played superb throughtout," said a delighted coach N. Ramamoorthy, even as he profusely praised the management for the excellent support extended to the team.

ONGC tried hard but could not handle the smooth-functioning rival, as it tended to rely heavily on Mohit Bhandari and Desraj. Also Jaldeep Dhaliwal and Nishant Kumar could not pull their weight for the team, when it mattered, in the second half.

S. Sridhar and S. Robinson handled the show very well for IOB, with every member of the team playing to a plan and with efficiency. Sridhar was adjudged the best player of the tournament as he scored heavily and stood out with his all-round game.

With Punjab Police considerably hampered in the absence of the towering Parminder Singh, out with a bout of jaundice, it was difficult for the Punjab team to pose a serious threat to the supremacy of IOB in the semifinals.

Host Prithvi Nath Club had done well to make the semifinals but found the ONGC team a hard nut to crack. In fact, ONGC was literally a renamed team of TISCO, as the players had shifted en masse.

The Western Railway women . -- Pics. RAJEEV BHATT-

In the women's final, Western Railway cruised home, despite a brief spell when Sheeba Maggon tried to hoodwink the team with her sharp three-pointers. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Delhi, did take a 32-31 lead midway through the second half, but the Railway team attacked through Ivy Cherian and Arnika Gujar in the climax to emerge a comfortable winner.

Ivy Cherian was consistent through the tournament and was adjudged the best player of the tournament in the women's section.

Though the tournament was a bit short on good teams this time, the organisers did well to field four junior teams with National probables, in providing a platform for the youngsters to make a mark.

Harish Sharma has been taking care of the national interest, as the secretary of the Basketball Federation of India in recent times, with distinction, and his love to serve the game has been strongly built over the years, through the excellent conduct of the Prithvi Nath tournament.

The Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel, gave away the prizes.

Kamesh Srinivasan