Uttarakhand enter national basketball final

Mysuru, Jan 15 (IANS) Defending champions Uttarakhand kept their hunt for a second consecutive title on track, defeating Tamil Nadu 71-69 in the men’s semi-finals of the 66th Senior National Basketball Championship here on Friday.

In the women’s section, Railways advanced to the summit clash by defeating Telangana 78-50.

In a clash between last year’s finalists, Uttarakhand were made to struggle for most of the game before making a superb comeback in the last quarter. Tamil Nadu were yet to lose a game ahead of this match, while Uttarakhand had dropped one of their group games to Punjab.

There was little to separate the two teams in the first half with Tamil Nadu holding just a slim lead over Uttarakhand. Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi (21 points) led the charge for Uttarakhand with his ability to drive to the rim. India forward Yadwinder (21 points) also contributed with nifty moves in the opponent circle.

For Tamil Nadu, it was Rikin Pethani (20 points) who provided the major scoring contribution with Pratham Singh (15 points) and Prasanna Venkatesh (11 points) putting in timely buckets.

In the third quarter, Tamil Nadu brought on their sixth man Siva Balan, who immediately had an offensive impact, helping to increase his team’s lead to double digits.

Tamil Nadu held a 20-point lead at one point in the fourth quarter, but this was when Uttarakhand showed their pedigree and started their miraculous comeback. Down by 18 points with five minutes left in the game, veteran Uttarakhand point guard Riyazuddin banked in back-to-back three pointers.

This was followed by a couple of three pointers by veteran shooting guard Trideep Rai to bring the lead down to two points. Tamil Nadu were plagued by critical turnovers and missed freethrows in the final minutes and were unable to put up any points during Uttarakhand’s comeback.

With less than 30 seconds to go, Uttarakhand centre Murali Krishna tied the game with a lay-up on a good set up by Riyazuddin. With 14 seconds left, Tamil Nadu had the chance for a game winning bucket, but a steal by Uttarakhand on a poor inbounds pass led to a lay-up by Bhrighuvanshi at the other end.

Down by two points, Tamil Nadu’s final attempt by Akilan Akil went awry and Uttarakhand clinched a well deserved victory to advance to the final.

In the women’s semi-finals, there was little to chose between Railways and Telengana in the first half with only four points separating the teams. For Telangana, it was starter Divya P. (21 points) who scored the bulk of her team’s points.

On the other hand, Railways had contributions from multiple players. Telangana relied too much on their starters with little contribution from their bench leading to rising fatigue levels among their main players in the second half.

Railways rotated their players nicely, and their bench stepped up to the occasion scoring 23 points in the contest. Railways also took advantage of their size on the inside, out-rebounding Telangana by 56 to 39, leading to 20 second chance points.

Veteran point guard Anitha Paul-Durai led the Railways team with 20 points as they blew the match wide open to take a comfortable victory.

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