India crowned South Asian Champions for second straight time
Defending champions India notched up an emphatic 93-44 win over Sri Lanka in the finals of 4th South Asian Basketball Championship (SABA) at the Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday.
Both the sides came into this all-important last league match with perfect 4-0 records but India had the last laugh today as the Indian team also qualified for the FIBA Asia Championship in China in September.
India has relied all along on its much taller frontline, aggressive man-to-man defence, counter-attacking on the break and effective outside shooting to register 100+ points in three of their earlier four matches. The final game against Sri Lanka was no different.
22-year-old Praneeth Udumalagala and first substitute Thimothi Thineshkanth fought valiantly to keep Sri Lanka’s scoreboard ticking. But with India scoring almost twice as quickly (46-26 at halftime) it was a constantly slippery slope for the islanders.
The third quarter saw the Indian team go on a particularly vicious tear, starting with a 9-0 run coming out of the halftime break. “I can’t deny that I am disappointed,” Sri Lanka Head Coach Panduka Ranasinghe said after the loss. “But credit to what (India Head Coach) Prasad has managed to do with his team.”
India had four players in double digits, with Tamil Nadu’s centre Aravind Annadurai top scoring with 22 points, which included one three pointer. “We are confident of doing better at the FIBA Asia level this time, as now other teams fear us,” said small forward Prasanna Venkatesh.
He has reason to feel optimistic, as India fielded five debutants this time, who managed to more than fill in for the absence of missing starters Amritpal Singh, Amjyot Singh Gill, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Yadwinder Singh.
The winning team was given a cash prize of Rs 35,000 as a personal gesture of Basketball Federation of India (BFI) President K Govindraj. Trophies and medals were handed out to the top three teams of India (gold), Sri Lanka (silver) and Nepal (bronze)