The race to fight for India's most prestigious basketball trophy - the National Basketball Championship - got underway in its 64th iteration at the Thyagaraj Stadium in the capital city of New Delhi from Wednesday, February 26th. The eight-day tournament is set to feature 51 total state/unit teams from across India. On the opening day, defending champions Uttarakhand (Men) and Indian Railways (Women) both started their campaigns with decisive wins.
Uttarakhand, the tournament's reigning champs from last year in Ludhiana and featuring some of the best men stars in Indian basketball, opened their title defense with a closely contested victory against Indian Railways. After falling behind by six points at the end of the third quarter, Uttarakhand came charging back with a 29-17 run in the final period to outlast their opponents 68-62. Rising Indian big man Amrit Pal Singh led the way with 25 points for Uttarakhand while experienced guard Riyazuddin added 16. Gagandeep Singh scored 20 to pace Railways.
Last year's Men's finalists Punjab also started off the tournament with championship intentions and put on a fantastic, balanced display to overwhelm Andhra Pradesh en route to a 92-44 win. Punjab started the game on a 27-4 run and never looked back.
Meanwhile, last year's Women's finalists Tamil Nadu crushed Maharashtra, starting the game on a 22-2 first quarter advantage and keeping their opponents under seven points in every quarter there-after. The unstoppable Appoorva Muralinath had 26 points for TN, outscoring Maharashtra all by herself. TN defeated Maharashtra 63-20.
- Punjab (Ranbir Singh 15, Amripal Singh 14, Gurvinder Singh 14, Jagdeep Singh 14) bt Andhra Pradesh (GV Reddy 13) 92-44 (27-4, 27-22, 21-10, 17-8).
- Uttarakhand (Amrit Pal Singh 25, Riyazuddin 16) bt Indian Railways (Gagandeep Singh 20, Prakesh Mishra 10) 68-62 (15-15, 13-11, 11-19, 29-17).
- Services (Gopal Ram 17, SM Settu 16, Dalip Kumar 13) bt Rajasthan (Prashant Singh 22, Vinod Kumar 10) 101-57 (19-17, 31-9, 26-14, 25-17).
- Delhi (Raspreet Sidhu 22, Prashanti Singh 18) bt Karnataka (Kruthika Lakshman 19, PU Navneetha 13) 77-58 (20-17, 17-16, 23-13, 17-12).
- Indian Railways (Anju Lakra 13) bt West Bengal 68-40 (25-16, 12-11, 13-9, 18-4).
- Tamil Nadu (Appoorva Muralinath 26, Soniya Joy 14, R. Ramya 14) bt Maharashtra 63-20 (22-2, 18-5, 11-7, 12-6).
As mentioned above, former NBA Coach of the Year Del Harris is a special guest at the tournament. Along with India's National Senior Men's team coach Scott Flemming, Harris hosted a training session for attending coaches and players at the Thyagaraj Stadium on Thursday, February 27th.