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FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup 2023: India fails to reach knockouts, but impress nonetheless
The Indian boys team beat in-form Israel and higher ranked Kyrgyzstan in their final two pool games to finish third and just shy of reaching the quarterfinals.
Facing must-win games after going down 2-0, India stepped up to the occasion with impressive wins in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup 2023 that is underway in Debrecen, Hungary.
This is only the second time that an Indian team is competing at the World Stage. (Both the Indian U18 boys and girls teams had played at the inaugural 2011 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships.)
India had lost to Ukraine and Latvia on the opening day. With only the top two teams progressing from each pool to the knockout rounds, India had to prevail in their remaining two pool matches - against in-form Israel and higher-ranked Kyrgyzstan - and hope for the results of other games to swing in their favour - in order to qualify for the quarterfinals.
India achieved what was in its control - winning both its games in decisive fashion - but Israel’s victory over Latvia meant that South Asia’s only team in the World Cup had to settle for a third-place standing within its pool, with a 2-2 record.
India beat Israel 21-19
India’s outside shooting - which was largely a non-factor in the earlier games - made an explosive comeback against Israel right from the get-go. All three Indian starters - Lokendra Singh and Kushal Singh (both twice), and Harsh Dagar (once), quickly found the bottom of the net from beyond the arc, to give India a 11-4 lead in a little over two minutes of play.
Israel was able to counter with three two-pointers of its own courtesy Roe Avneri, to bring the scoreline to within 11-12. That’s when India showcased its superior strength, with multiple drives to the basket by Kushal Singh and Harsh Dagar.
It was now Israel’s turn to mounted another offensive, with Avneri continuing his scorching flame-throwing from the two-point line, to give his side a 19-18 lead.
Israel now had the chance to finish the game with a single two-pointer, but missed the opportunity. India’s Harsh Dagar and Lokendra Singh capitalized by converting their free throws.
With India having regained a 20-19 lead, Lokendra Singh drove from the top of the key to finish strong at the rim for a highly contested layup, giving India the 21-19 win.
India (Kushal Singh 9 pts, Lokendra Singh 7 pts, Harsh Dagar 5 pts) bt Israel (Roe Avneri 10 pts, Sachar Doron 6pts) 21-19
India bt Kyrgyzstan 21-7
Prior to the tip-off of this game, it had already become clear that India had no chance of qualifying to the knockouts, with Israel having beaten Latvia 22-19. That did not deter from India continuing its new vein of form. In this game, backup point guard Jaideep Rathore finally joined the party - with flashy jab steps and step back jumpshots that had FIBA 3x3’s social media team favourably calling him an “Indian James Harden.”
While India came out firing, Kyrgyzstan was the exact opposite. Their lack of intent meant India’s offense brooked no resistance. Within 2.5 mins India had already built up an 8-1 lead, and from there on, it was simply a matter of completing the formalities of a 21-7 win.
India (Harsh Dagar 8 pts, Jaideep Rathore 6 pts) bt Kyrgyzstan (Amir Rustamov 4 pts, Adil Zheenaliev 3 pts) 21-7