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66th Junior National Basketball Championship: Chhattisgarh girls and Tamil Nadu boys emerge as champions
Chhattisgarh girls team
Ludhiana, Punjab, 9th October 2015: The final day of the 66th Junior National Basketball Championship at Ludhiana, Punjab saw four of the best teams in the competition battle it out for the coveted gold medal. Both the defending champions, Chhattisgarh girls and Punjab boys, reached the finals again this year and were in the quest for a repeat.
The first final was between the girls teams of Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. The defending champs were unbeaten in the tournament so far and were facing a dangerous Karnataka side. Karnataka had dropped only one game in the tournament so far, which was against the Chhattisgarh side in the group stages. Having faced each other previously in the competition, both teams had scouted each other out for their strengths and weaknesses.
Karnataka's Bhandavya (in maroon) with the ball against Chhattisgarh (in blue)
Karnataka got off to a hot start with Bhandavya and Priyanka firing away from 3-point range. Karnataka showed good ball movement in the first half and on the defensive end, they were able to contain Chhattisgarh post players. After securing a double-digit lead in the first quarter, Karnataka slowed down a bit in the second, with Chhattisgarh captain Riya Verma finding her shots. Karnataka still maintained a lead throughout the third quarter and were poised for a photo finish. But Chhattisgarh had other plans. Coach Sangeetha Das reminded her team that they had won the competition several times in the past and were not going to go down so easily.
Chhattisgarh player (in blue) drives past the Karnataka defense (in maroon)
Chhattisgarh girls then put on a comeback for the ages. They were able to knock down deep contested 3-pointers and cut down the deficit. Riya Verma knocked down five 3-pointers in the last few minutes to lead the comeback. In the end, a 3 pointer by D. Sahi was a final nail in the coffin for Karnataka, as Chhattisgarh held on to a 4-point lead to clinch the victory and emerge as champions.
Tamil Nadu Boys with Satnam Singh
In the boys final, defending champions Punjab took on last year’s third placed team Tamil Nadu. The Punjab boys entered the final undefeated, while Tamil Nadu lost just one group game to the Delhi team. The game was neck and neck throughout with Tamil Nadu and Punjab trading scoring punches. In the first quarter, Tamil Nadu point guard S. Kalidas found his touch from distance. The Punjab defense was sagging off of him and he took advantage knocking down three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Punjab’s Jaipal Singh Mann had the answer for his team, as he also found his stroke in the first quarter.
Punjab's Rahul Mehla (in white) drives in against Tamil Nadu (in purple)
Later in the game, R. Hari Ram and P. Baladhaneshwar carried the scoring load for Tamil Nadu. Daniel Richards also contributed from the bench for Tamil Nadu with 16 points. For Punjab, Rahul Mehla led the charge with 28 points in the game. As the game went down the final minutes, Punjab gained a 1-pont lead in the game. The game then witnessed multiple lead changes. R. Hari Ram managed to put his team up in the final minute by getting to the freethrow line and knocking down clutch freethrows. His teammate Baladhaneshwar forced a crucial turnover with under a minute to go in the game by stealing the ball from Rahul Mehla. Tamil Nadu then held on to the lead and secured the victory and the gold medal.
MVP R. Hari Ram (in purple) breaks away for the easy bucket
The winners, Chhattisgarh girls and Tamil Nadu boys, were awarded gold medals and cash prizes of INR 75,000 each. The second placed teams, Karnataka girls and Punjab boys were awarded silver medals and INR 50,000 each, while the third placed teams, Kerala girls and Delhi boys were awarded INR 30,000 each.
Junior Boys MVP Hari Ram receiving the award from 2014 MVP Bhullar Arsh
The boys’ Most Valuable Player was awarded to R. Hari Ram from Tamil Nadu. Chhattisgarh captain Riya Verma won the girls’ Most Valuable Player.
Girls MVP Riya Varma from Chhattisgarh
Chhattisgarh (Riya Verma 37, Vandana Kumari 11) bt Karnataka (Bhandavya Mahesha 31, Priyanka P. 15) 67-63 (11-24, 18-12, 10-18, 28-9)
Tamil Nadu (R. Hari Ram 21, P. Baladhaneshwar 18, A. Daniel Richards 16) bt Punjab (Rahul Mehla 28, Jaipal Singh Mann 19) 91-86 (23-20, 23-23, 20-22, 25-21)
Punjab boys team with the silver medals
Second placed Karnataka girls team
Third placed Kerala girls team
Delhi boys team with their bronze medals
About the 66th Junior National Basketball Championship
The 66th Junior National Basketball Championship is being organised in Ludhiana, Punjab. The tournament for the ‘18 and under’ category is scheduled from October 2 to October 9 2015 in the basketball hotbed of Punjab, which has produced numerous star international players. The Punjab Basketball Association is the organising body for the tournament under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India. The venue for the championship is the courts at the Guru Nanak Stadium. There is one indoor court and two outdoor courts at the venue.
Last year’s Junior National Championship was held in Kochi, Kerala. Home team Punjab boys were the winners of the 65th version of the tournament; while Delhi came runners up and Tamil Nadu were the third placed team in the boys’ category. For the girls, Chhattisgarh are the defending champions, who defeated the Kerala girls in the final last year. Uttar Pradesh girls achieved third place.
This year’s tournament will witness the participation of 24 states, each with a boys’ and girls’ team. The last time a national level basketball championship was held in Ludhiana was the Senior National Basketball Championship in 2012-13.
About Basketball Federation of India
The Basketball Federation of India or BFI is the governing and controlling body of basketball in India, and is responsible for the development and promotion of the sport at all levels. BFI has been involved in conducting camps, clinics, events, and training sessions at its academies for the development of basketball. BFI came into being in 1935 and took complete control over Indian basketball in 1950. Prior to that time, the Indian Olympic Association handled the conduct of Indian basketball championships. Since 1950, the BFI has been conducting various such championships, from the grassroots to senior team participation in international tournaments. In addition, the BFI has been responsible for the establishment of strong sub-junior and junior level programs. The BFI has to its credit produced several international players of repute, among them 17 have been bestowed with the honour of Arjuna Awards. Earlier in June 2015, 19-year-old Satnam Singh Bhamara made history by becoming the first Indian national to be drafted by an NBA team, when he was selected by the Dallas Mavericks. More information at www.basketballfederationindia.org