October 15, 2014

31st Youth National Championship: Jubilant Tamil Nadu win both Boys' & Girls' championships

Indian national tournaments are always an exciting festival of culture and languages, as teams and young players gather from across the nation's varied corners onto the basketball court. While hoops is the prevalent language above all on-court, there are dozens of different dialects and languages spoken off of it. This was the case for the last week in Chandigarh, the host city of 31st Youth (U16) National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls featuring the best Under-16 players in the country, where participants included 26 boys' teams and 26 girls' squads from different Indian states/territories.

But on the championship's final evening on Tuesday, October 14, after all the other competitors had been eliminated, the variety of the championship had been narrowed down to just two: Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The two neighbouring southern states had overcome the toughest of challenges and were the last one's standing both the boys' and the girls' finals . When the dust settled after two exciting final games, it was Tamil Nadu who stamped their dominance on the future talents of Indian hoops by becoming Indian hoop championships in both divisions.

The championship was organised by the Chandigarh Basketball Association under the aegis of Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and IMG-Reliance Group.

When two of the best teams play in the final, the separation between them are paper thin. And this is just what happened in the boys' final between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. After a strong first half when TN raced to a 33-18 lead, Kerala bounced back in style, outscoring TN 23-6 in the third period and taking a slight edge going into the deciding final period of the game. A back-and-forth contest eventually left the result in the hands of TN's Eshwar PB on the free-throw line. A miss by Eshwar with the score tied at 58-all led the game into overtime. It was in the extra period that TN regained their early form, outscoring Kerala 17-7 and finally creating enough separation again to win the final 75-65. TN's captain R Hariram led the charge with 27 points and 15 rebounds while Eshwar PB added 24 to go with seven rebounds of his own. P Sudarsan (30) and H Haridas (17) were the leading scorers for Kerala in the loss.

The girls' final was a rematch of last year's final, when Kerala had defeated TN to win the gold. Kerala once again got out to a hot start, scoring the game's first 10 points and leading 18-8 in the first quarter. Kerala were up comfortably by double digits at halftime, but TN chipped away to cut down the deficit a little before the start of the final period. With one quarter to go, TN switched gears completely to play their best basketball of the night, heavily outscoring Kerala and finally stretching for a lead. TN held on to the lead in the final seconds to win the final 64-59 and get payback for last year's loss. Ishwarya J was Tamil Nadu's star with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Nivyaraj PP of Kerala scored a game-high 19 points.

Tamil Nadu's star performers through the course of the tournament - Eshwar PB (Boys) and Ishwarya J (Girls) - were named the most valuable players of the tournament.

Earlier in the day, Karnataka's girls ended their tournament on a high-note by securing the third-place, in a bronze-medal playoff contest against Maharashtra. Karnataka were down 18-6 in the first quarter, but an unstoppable 24-2 performance in the second quarter gave them the lead, and they rode their hot form after halftime to win the game 69-52. The trifecta of Priyanka P (21), Bhoomika P (21), and Lopamudra T (19) led the way for Karnataka. Maharashtra's breakout star of the tournament Shruti Sherigar had 27 points in a losing effort. In the boys' third/fourth place contest, the ascending Haryana team did one-up on their last year's fourth-place finish by winning the bronze medal. With the efforts of Ankit (20) and Sonu Kumar (17), Haryana defeated Chhattisgarh 76-62. Chhattisgarh's leading scorers included the young star Mithun Das (21) and P. Pandey (17).

According to the report by Ekalavyas.com, boy’s and girl’s MVPs were awarded Rs. 15,000 each in prize money and an MVP plaque. The winning team in the boys and girls category, Tamil Nadu, received Rs. 75,000 each, the first runners up, Kerala, received Rs. 50,000 each and the second runners up, Haryana for the boys and Karnataka for the girls, received Rs. 25,000 each.

The semi-finals of the Youth Nationals were held on Monday. Kerala faced off against Maharashtra, and despite the latter's feisty showings earlier in the tournament, Kerala played inspired defense to keep their challengers at bay. Led by Nivya Raj's 23 points, Kerala had no trouble outpacing Maharashtra en route to an easy 81-44 win. The second semi-final between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka was a close affair in the first quarter, all until an unstoppable 23-4 second quarter run by TN gave them the lead for good. Karnataka chipped away after the halftime break behind Lopamudra T (23), but it wasn't enough to avoid TN from winning the contest 65-58.

Tamil Nadu's boys had a much tougher time in their semi-final clash, playing versus the inspired team from Haryana. In the high-scoring contest, Haryana had edged to a 48-44 lead at halftime. But Tamil Nadu outscored the Haryanvis by double-digits in the third quarter to take a healthy lead. Haryana played well in the final period and, after multiple lead changes, the score was tied at 93-all in the game's last minute. A clutch layup by J Adarsh gave TN a 95-93 lead with 34 seconds to go, which they held on to for the win and to secure a berth in the final. P. Baladhan of TN and Deepak of Haryana were the game's leading scorers, with 23 points each. In the earlier boys' semi-final, Kerala fell behind to Chhattisgarh by eight points at the end of the third quarter. But an inspired final quarter performance behind Sudarshan (17) saw them reverse the scoreline and race ahead for a 63-55 win. Mithun Das led Chhattisgarh with 23 in a losing effort.

You can find more detailed news and recaps of the tournament by Vishnu Ravi Shankar on Ekalavyas.com.

Final Scores
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Ishwarya J 16) bt Kerala (Nivyaraj PP 19, Anusha IP 15, Aswathi J 13) 64-59 (8-18, 13-14, 24-19, 19-8).
  • Boys: Tamil Nadu (R. Hariram 27, Eshwar PB 24) bt Kerala (P. Sudarsan 30, H. Haridas 17) 75-65 OT (18-6, 15-12, 6-23, 19-17, 17-7).
Third/Fourth Place
  • Girls: Karnataka (Priyanka P 21, Bhoomika P 19, Lopamudra T 19) bt Maharashtra (Shruti Sherigar 27) 69-52 (6-18, 24-2, 15-14, 24-18).
  • Boys: Haryana (Ankit 20, Sonu Kumar 17) bt Chhattisgarh (Mithun Das 21, P. Pandey 17, A. Rai 14) 76-62 (21-16, 18-21, 20-12, 17-13).
  • Girls: Ishwarya J (Tamil Nadu).
  • Boys: Eshwar PB (Tamil Nadu).
Final Standings Girls
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Kerala
  • 3. Karnataka
  • 4. Maharashtra
  • 5. Madhya Pradesh
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Kerala
  • 3. Haryana
  • 4. Chhattisgarh
  • 5. Delhi

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