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India's U16 Asian Basketball campaign ends with tough 84-87 pre-quarterfinals loss to Qatar
The Indian team was looking to recreate the magic of its performance in the previous edition - where the side finished a historic fifth in Asia.
The Indian boys’ U16 team saw its spirited campaign in the FIBA U16 Asian Basketball Championship 2023 draw to a close with a close-fought loss to hosts Qatar.
The Championship is underway at the Al-Gharafa Indoor Stadium in Doha.
India starts off hot
Starting off with a bang, India had built up a 9-0 opening run, thanks to its perfect outside shooting. Thereafter, Qatar, led by its athletically gifted 6ft 4’’ Mohamed Massamba Ndao found the driving lanes to claw back within 5 points, 7-12, of India.
Qatar also relied on its defensive intensity, exploiting India’s penchant for turning the ball over against pressure.
At the end of the first period, India managed to hold on to its lead thanks to Lokesh’s outside shooting, but it was clear that the momentum was shifting towards the Qataras.
Qatar’s second-quarter rampage
Proving the ominous signs, Qatar continued finding the bottom of the basket, with two back-to-back threes by Ndao at the start of Q2, giving them the 26-25 lead. The Qatar faithful in the stands were now making their presence felt as India’s turnover woes mounted.
The 32-15 second quarter meant that India was staring at a double-digit, 40-52, deficit going into halftime.
Could India show the heart for an unlikely comeback?
Turns out the answer was a loud ‘YES’.
India’s valiant second half
Led by guards Lavish (11 points) and Mohit Jogchand (9 points) India was able to counter Qatar’s star guard Abdulla Yassin I M Mousa (12 points, 4/5 from three) to win the third frame 24-20.
It was now Qatar’s turn to feel the pressure from the heightened expectations of winning on its home floor.
Lavish continued his purple scoring patch in the final ten minutes and was joined by forward Lokesh Sharma - fast acquiring a reputation of being a clutch performer - as India tied the game at 82-82, with a little over two minutes remaining.
Qatar creates history, India’s takeaways
With 45 seconds left for the final buzzer, Qatar was rewarded with a lucky offensive putback giving them a three-point 87-84 cushion, which they would hold on to for the tense win.
The victory for Qatar meant that it reached the quarterfinals of the FIBA U16 Asian Championship for the very first time.
On India’s part - while the resilience to fight back was a huge takeaway - it needs to pay serious attention to reducing its turnovers and also hit the weight room, to have any hope of keeping up with the big boys of Asia and Oceania. Another gap that needs to be plugged is building reliable bench strength, to relieve the pressure on its starters to do it all, all the time.
India (Lavish 23 pts, Lokesh Kumar Sharma 23 pts, Mohit Jogchand 21 pts) lose to Qatar (Mohamed Massamba Ndao 29 pts 11 reb, Abdulla Yassin I M Mousa 31 pts) 84-87 [25-20, 15-32, 24-20, 20-25]