Reigning Champions Thiruvanthapuram had mixed luck at the 56th Kerala Senior State Basketball Championship in Wayanad on Friday: Thiruvanathapuram Men defeated Ernakulum 62-59 to win the final, while the younger Kannur outfit defeated Thiruvanathapuram's experienced women's side 67-48 to lift the women's title.
With 21 points, Ajeeth Sugunan was the high-man in the Men's final for Thirvanathpuram in the close final. Manoj R added 16 to keep his Ernakulum side in the race for the title till the very end.
In the Women's final, young star PS Neenumol had 20 points for the winning Kannur side, cancelling out 16 by SS Anjanna of Thiruvanathpuram.
Thiruvanathapuram's Men had qualified for the final showcase after rushing past Thrissur in their semi-final match-up. Ernakulum had defeated Pathanamthitta in their semi. Earlier in the Women's Semi-Finals Kannur defeated Kollam while Thiruvanthapuram defeated Kottayam.
Pathanamthitta Men and Kollam Women took the Bronze medals at the championship, as Pathanamthitta beat Thrissur (49-34) and Kollam beat Kottayam (63-51) in their respective third/fourth place games.
Kerala's young starlets honoured
Kerala's youth and junior girls have had a memorable year in hoops, becoming a powerhouse. in women's basketball in the country. Earlier in the Kerala State Championship, Kerala's winning teams in several annual national-level basketball championships were felicitated at the tournament in Wayanad.
In the past year, Kerala's Under 17 Girls team won the School National Championship in Rajasthan, Kerala U18 Girls' team went undefeated to win the Junior National Championship in New Delhi, and Kerala's U16 (Youth) side won the Youth National Championship in Nagpur.
Perhaps the most talented amongst the youngsters in the past year was 17-year-old Jeena PS. Hailing from Padinjarathara, in the Wayanad District of Kerala, the five-foot-ten inch post player has been the chief force behind Kerala’s recent success in the Youth and the Junior level. Jeena was part of the side that won both the Youth and the Junior championships last year, and was the best player at this year’s Junior Nationals as Kerala won the tournament again. She is one of the best Junior rebounders in India, and holds her own when playing with the Seniors, too. Jeena also represented India in the first ever FIBA 3x3 Championship in Rimini in Italy. In the Junior Nationals, Jeena scored a high of 40 points in the first game against Punjab. She had 33 points and 29 rebounds in an emotional, overttime Semi-Final win against Chhattisgarh, and notched 17 points and 17 rebounds in the Final win against Tamil Nadu. Over the course of the tournament, she averaged 24.3 points per game.
Another young star for Kerala is Poojamol KS, 15, who is quickly becoming the young face of Kerala hoops. Pooja is a versatile, do-it-all player, as capable of running the break on offense as she is of grabbing crucial offensive rebounds in the post. She was the best player in the Nagpur Youth Nationals, topping her performance with 40 points and 13 rebounds in the final. As a younger member in the Junior squad, she was still good enough to play a starring role in the team’s starting five. She also grabbed the 'Best Player' award at the School Nationals.
Besides these two, Kerala’s Junior side boasts of several other extraordinary young talents, such as Elizabeth Hillarios, Premi P Lal, Surya PR, Anjana PG and Aswathy S Thampy.
The Coaches who helped these teams were also Felicitated Coach Jose Philip, Jijon Paul and Biju D Themman.