Junior Basketball Nationals: Chhattisgarh defeat TN in thriller; Kerala Girls keep winning
The third day of the 62nd Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys & Girls in New Delhi witnessed a great battle of the heavyweights when two of the strongest boys’ sides at the competition – Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh – went face to face in a showdown that lived up to its high-profile expectations, before Chhattisgarh secured a close win. Amongst the girls’, reigning champions Kerala continued their domination, winning their third straight after defeating Rajasthan on Thursday.
In the Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu match-up, an electrified crowd greeted two efficient teams, who were excelling especially on the defensive end in this game. The teams traded spurts of excellent play between each other: Chhattisgarh’s star Ajay Pratap Singh, who was the top scorer with 25 points, kept the pressure on the opponents, while TN countered with their own star in Aravind.
With little to choose between the sides in the fourth quarter, Chhattisgarh made all the right plays in the last few minutes of the game to survive for a four point win, 64-60. The end of the match was highlighted by a dunk by Chhattisgarh’s Ajay Pratap Singh that provided the exclamation point to the victory. For TN, Aravind scored 22 points in a losing effort and Karthikeyan S added 16.
In another boys’ game, Punjab picked up the slack after losing in their first match to defeat Kerala on Thursday. After a close first quarter, Kerala lost their grip on Punjab’s high-scoring wingmen, who helped give Punjab a 20 point lead at halftime. Kerala did make a huge comeback in the third quarter to make it a three point game again, but Punjab executed well in the last period to notch a 84-72 win. Loveneet Singh scored 25 points for Punjab and Prabhu Mohan Mishra added 19. Akhil Mathew Sunny had a game-high 33 points for Kerala.
After two wins, Kerala, the defending champions in the girls’ division, continued their hot streak by routing Rajasthan by 30 points and going atop their group. Kerala attacked hard from the beginning, holding Rajasthan to just four points in the first quarter. With the game effectively out of reach by halftime, Kerala had the advantage of resting several of their star players and look ahead towards the next round.
Perhaps Kerala’s biggest challenge in the knockout stages could come from their southern neighbours, Tamil Nadu, who have been playing unstoppable basketball in the tournament, too. TN Girls shrugged off the challenge from Uttar Pradesh, despite 20 points from UP’s Dhrijit Arora. TN won 67-43.
Chhattisgarh (Ajay Pratap Singh 25, Janaki Ramnath Kumar 13, Sameer Kumar Rathee 11) bt. Tamil Nadu (Aravind A. 22, Karthikeyan S. 16, Kasi Rajan M. 10) 64-60 (17-12, 15-20, 17-12, 15-16).
Punjab (Loveneet Singh 25, Harmandeep Singh 17, Baljeet Singh 10, Sunil Bajaj 10) bt. Kerala (Akhil Mathew Sunny 33, Arun 13) 84-72 (19-18, 26-7, 14-31, 25-16)
Maharashtra (Aqib Wahab Noor Khan 26, Nitin Chopde 14, Fardeen Khan 11) bt. Andhra Pradesh (Vaddadi N. Babu 14) 87-44 (17-8, 20-13, 27-9, 23-14)
Kerala (Anu Thomas 14, Jeena P.S 10, Anjana 10) bt. Rajasthan (Kamlesh Jat 13, Manisha Meena 9) 63-33 (26-4, 21-10, 8-9, 8-10)
Tamil Nadu (Rajapriya Dharsh 14) bt. Uttar Pradesh (Dhrijit Arora 16, Barkha Sonkar 11) 67-43 (20-8, 18-4, 16-13, 13-18)
Jharkhand (Anima Tirkey 18, Reena Khalkho 13, Swarnlata Membram 12) bt. Bihar (Sameena Raza 13) 63-25 (14-8, 21-5, 10-6, 18-6).