Geethu Anna Rahul: "I want to be a role model for other youngsters."
John Wooden: “It isn't what you do, but how you do it.”
Vishesh Bhriguvanshi: “I never imagined I’ll be leading the national team.”
Pratham Singh: “My teammates are like my family.”

Results from Day 7 of the 67th Senior National Basketball Championship

Telangana women through to the finals after upsetting defending champs Indian Railways.

Puducherry, 13th January 2017: The day of the semi-finals usually turns out to be the best day of action in any national championship. It was no different today at the 67th Senior National Basketball Championship. 


Telangana women stun Indian Railways

The first final-four clash was rematch of last year’s semi-final between Telangana and Indian Railways. The defending champions crushed Telangana last year in Mysuru, but all was forgotten as the teams took to the court today.

Telangana got off to a strong start, with a 7-0 run, keeping the star-studded Railways lineup scoreless in the first four minutes of the game. Having the advantage of a fluid offense, the Telangana team moved the ball effectively to create open shots. Their point guard Aishwarya Nataraj controlled the game well putting her teammates in the right positions to score. All five Telangana players crashed the boards giving their team multiple second chance opportunities. Forward/ centre Suganya was especially aggressive on the offensive boards, outrebounding Railways big Rajapriyadarshini.

The Railways were sluggish throughout the game, struggling to score against Telangana’s switching defense. All five players were able to guard multiple positions, contesting and altering the Railways players’ shots. Telangana ended the first half up by 9 points and were poised to take the game away in the third. But the Railways went on a mini-run in the third quarter to cut down the lead. Led by Sruthi Menon (14 points) and captain Anitha Paul-Durai, the Railways team started knocking down tough shots.

But once their point guard and most experienced player Paul-Durai suffered a leg injury in mid-way through the third quarter, Railways had no clear leader on the floor and Telangana wrested back control of the game. Telangana’s Ramya R. (17 points) had a sublime shooting touch in today’s game, knocking down deep triples and crafty mid-range shots. Her teammate Gayatri M. (24 points) fearlessly drove into the paint and broke away in transition for multiple layups.

As the teams entered the fourth quarter, Railways’ offensive struggles continued and Telangana were high on confidence. The unified Telangana unit maintained a double-digit lead throughout the fourth and pulled away late to clinch a 74-56 victory. They will enter the finals of the Senior National Championship for the first time since becoming an independent state. 


Uttarakhand men make finals again

The second semi-final was a men’s clash between the unpredictable Punjab team and favourites Uttarakhand. The last time these two teams faced each other saw Punjab shocking the Uttarakhand team with an unlikely victory led by TJ Sahi and former Punjab centre Gagandeep Singh. However, with Gagandeep moving to the Railways this year, it was a different story in today’s semi-final clash.

Both teams got off to slow start as the first quarter saw a lot of missed layups from both sides. Punjab managed to restrict Uttarakhand to merely 17 points in the first quarter, albeit scoring only 14 points themselves. But Uttarakhand’s offense came alive in the remaining three periods. Starting second quarter, super substitute Yadwinder Singh came in to begin the scoring for Uttarakhand along with experienced forward Anoop. Superstar and India international Vishesh Bhriguvanshi found his shooting touch in the second period, hitting back-to-back triples. Centre Amritpal was not to be left behind, as he muscled his way to the basket against the smaller Punjab frontcourt.

The highlight of the game came in the second quarter when Amritpal went straight for the cup and dunked hard in the face of Punjab centre Nitish. It was all downhill from there for Punjab, as Uttarakhand built on their lead, ending the first half up by 18 points. Punjab point guard TJ Sahi (14 points) was the only player who was able to get to the basket against the formidable Uttarakhand frontcourt.

In the second half, veteran shooting guard Trideep Rai began knocking down shots from the outside, and it was too much for Punjab to contain. The Punjab zone defense was ineffective against Uttarakhand, who were able to create too many open shots. Uttarakhand were on cruise control for the rest of the game, emptying their bench, who maintained their team’s lead. Punjab’s Arshpreet Bhullar and TJ Sahi provided some fighting spark, but it was not enough to match up against last year’s finalists.

Uttarakhand ended the game with a 78-53 blowout win and reached the finals an impressive third straight time.


Kerala women tip Chhattisgarh

Old rivals Kerala and Chhattisgarh squared off in the second semi-final in a highly anticipated contest. Kerala were missing the services of their international centre Stephy Nixon. Instead, U18 player Nimmi George made the starting lineup and had the uphill task of guarding Chhattisgarh’s 6 foot 9 inch centre Poonam Chaturvedi.

Chhattisgarh had the better first quarter between the two teams, with Poonam continuing her MVP scoring ways, calmly hitting her shots around the basket. For Kerala, forwards Jeena PS and Anjana PG providing the offensive punch with their mid-range game.

The game started changing colour in the second quarter, when Kerala began double teaming Poonam, disrupting passes and harassing her on the defensive end. Jeena and Anjana (20 points) played well on both ends of the floor, hitting buckets in transition and making the most of second chance opportunities. Jeena had a huge double-double of 20 points and 18 rebounds, that included 8 offensive boards.

Kerala kept the momentum going in the second half, but Chhattisgarh began cutting down the lead thanks to Aakansha Singh’s timely triples. Poonam continued to pour in the points on her way to 36 points in the game. But with the game getting close, Kerala’s international guard Poojamol stepped up, knocking down two crucial triples and a transition layup. Kerala managed to maintain a slim lead and a crucial steal by Kerala captain Athira in the final seconds, clinched the game for her team. Kerala held on for a 72-70 victory and will face the upstart Telangana team in the final tomorrow.


Tamil Nadu have their way against Rajasthan

After a heart-breaking loss in last year’s semi-finals, Tamil Nadu were looking to set things right this year as they faced Rajasthan to decide a spot in the final. The Rajasthan men have had a historic run in the tournament thus far, entering the semi-finals after a 25-year absence.

But much to Rajasthan’s dismay, the match went exactly according to Tamil Nadu’s game plan from start to finish. The big Tamil Nadu frontcourt of Rikin Pethani and Vineeth Mathew (10 points) were a lot to handle for Rajasthan’s smaller lineup. International guard Pratham Singh had 11 points in the first quarter to set the tone for the contest. Tamil Nadu jumped onto a 12-point lead at the end of the first quarter and there was no looking back.

Rikin continued to find his shots in the post with ease. Along with Vineeth, the Tamil Nadu team got a lot of tip-ins as Rikin found his way to a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. The first half ended with Tamil Nadu up 52 to 30. 

In the second half, there was no difference in play, which gave Tamil Nadu the opportunity to test its bench strength. Their youngsters stepped up, especially athletic centre Jeevanantham who made the most of his minutes to score 24 points. Rajasthan provided very little fight – Sharad Dadhich led them in scoring with 21 points. Their dream run came to an end in the semis while Tamil Nadu made their way to the final, setting up a tantalising summit clash with Uttarakhand.


Link to detailed results with quarter-breakup and top scorers  


About the 67th Senior National Basketball Championship 2017

The championship is being held 7th to 14th January. 27 men’s teams and 25 women’s teams have confirmed their participation.

The championship is being organised by the Puducherry Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India.

Matches are being simultaneously held on four different courts: the indoor and outdoor courts of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium complex (Courts 1 & 2), and the two courts at the Petit Seminare School.

Defending champions Railways women will be the team to watch out for as it rekindles its rivalry with previous winners Chhattisgarh. In the men’s section, traditional powerhouses Services, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu will be vying for top honours.

29 international players from across the country will be adding their experience to the fray. 

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