October 31, 2010

Tamil Nadu run ’n gun into the Final!

With no shortage of attacking talent, the Tamil Nadu Junior Boys’ team are making waves over at the 61st IMG-Reliance National Basketball Championships at Vashi (Navi Mumbai). Led by the wily and skilled star G. Sivabalan, TN boast of a balanced squad that is starting to peak at the right time.

“We have a stronger team than last year,” said Sivabalan, who was one of the youngsters in last year’s squad that were knocked out in the Quarter-Final stage of the tournament, “The difference this time around is our ball-handlers, who have given us an edge.”

TN have been playing some beautiful basketball at Vashi, winning all but one game at the tournament. Their only loss came against a motivated Rajasthan side in a group game, where their opponents pulled away in the last minutes to win by four points.

Apart from that setback, TN have been in scintillating form, easily beating Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and sneaking past their toughest opponent, Punjab, 73-69 in a group game. In the semi-final against Karnataka, TN scored a tournament high 109 points in their high-speed run ’n gun style.

And at the helm of this offensive assault has been star forward Sivabalan. Armed with an unstoppable quick step and uncanny ability to finish tough lay-ups around the basket, the 6’2” player has been a nightmare for defenders all tournament. He has also shown nerves of steel, playing the best basketball in the tougher games. Sivabalan scored 24 points in the loss to Rajasthan, 28 points in a quarter-final win against Kerala, and 26 more points in the semi-final victory against Karnataka.

But he isn’t alone; aiding TN’s cause is GB Carmel Joseph, the experienced forward who has recently returned from playing for the Indian U18 team at the FIBA ASIA U18 Championship in Yemen. Players such as big man A. Aravind, S. Senthil Murugan, and KS Prasanna have been the pillars of this team.

Now, Tamil Nadu are set to face their toughest opponents, Punjab. Punjab are the tallest team in the tournament and have thus far proven difficult to beat. But TN have edged them before in the championship and will be looking to do it again.

“We have a lot of coordination amongst the players,” says Carmel Joseph, “Our offense style is freelance, and we can change our game according to the opponent.”

Sivabalan is confident that the team can go all the way. But Punjab are one of the most feared teams of the tournament, and the youngster will need to bring out his big game heroics once again if TN aim to raise the championship trophy on Sunday night.

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