February 14, 2015

2015 National Games Basketball: Uttarakhand (Men) and Kerala (Women) win gold medals in Kerala

It took four years for the National Games to return back on the Indian domestic basketball calendar. And India's best ball players - hungry to add the prestigious medal to their trophy collections - made it almost worth the wait.

Photo Courtesy: Ekalavyas.com
The basketball tournament of the 35th National Games - held from January 31 - February 14, 2015 across Kerala - came to a conclusion on the evening of Friday, February 13 with two satisfying finales for the energetic crowd at the Indoor Stadium in Mundayad (Kannur). Hosts Kerala were cheered on by their home fans as they raced past neighbouring Tamil Nadu for a victory in the Women's final. The Men's gold was fought closely in one of the greatest finals in Indian basketball, with Uttarakhand finally moving past Tamil Nadu in double overtime to finish as champions.

After a four-year absence, (the last National Games were held in Jharkhand in 2011) the 2015 National Games - which are basically inter-state Olympics - returned this year, organized by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). A total of 16 teams (eight Men, eight Women) took part in the basketball tournament at the Games this year from February 9-13.

On Friday, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu Men were the final show at the basketball court, and they gave the fans a night to remember. The two powerhouses - who are the previous two winners of India's Senior National Championship - played in a classic back-and-forth contest, as neither side refused to cave in. Tied at 40-40 at halftime, TN took a 10 point lead at the end of the third quarter, only to see the lead disappear thanks to a strong comeback by Uttarakhand in the fourth. Tied at 81-each, the game went into overtime, and after five more minutes, when there was no one with a clear advantage, double overtime began at 92-92. Finally, the clutch efforts of veteran star Riyazuddin (17) lifted Uttarkhand to a hard-fought 105-97 win. The star of the night was Amrit Pal Singh, who ended with 38 points and 18 rebounds for Uttarakhand. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (20) and Yadwinder Singh (18 points, 17 rebounds) also put in big performances for their side. At the other end, Prasanna Venkatesh (28), Aravind (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Pratham Singh (18) were the leaders for TN.

Photo Courtesy: Ekalavyas.com
TN faced disappointment in the Women's final, too, as the home side Kerala relied on stifling defense to shut out their opponents and win 56-36. Kerala started strong, limiting TN to just 12 points in the first half and taking an early 16 point lead. Despite improved performances by their opponents after halftime, Kerala cruised to a 20 point victory. Jeena PS (19 points, 13 rebounds) was Kerala's star on the night.

The Bronze Medal games were also held earlier on Friday. Karnataka's Navaneeta played one of the best games of her career with 24 points and 21 rebounds to help her side score a hard-fought 74-70 win against Maharashtra. Karnataka had to fight back from being down five at halftime to secure a win. Savitha added 23. For Maharashtra, the leading scorers were Manisha Dange (21) and Renu Maurya (18). The Men's game was a wash in the favour of Services against Karnataka. The efforts of Narender Grewal (25) and Joginder Singh (16) were too much for Karnataka to handle, who trailed big early in the game and got no respite as Service cruised to a 90-53 win. Anil Kumar had 20 for Karnataka in a losing effort.

Final Scores
  • Women: Kerala (Jeena PS 19, Poojamol KS 13) bt. Tamil Nadu 56-36 (16-8, 12-4, 11-16, 17-8).
  • Men: Uttarakhand (Amritpal Singh 38 pts, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 20, Yadwinder Singh 18, Riyazuddin 17) bt. Tamil Nadu (Prasanna Venkatesh 28, Aravind 20 pts, Pratham Singh 18) 105-97 2OT (17-23, 23-17, 25-15, 16-26, 11-11, 13-5).
Bronze Medal Games
  • Women: Karnataka (Navaneeta 24 pts, Savitha 23) bt. Maharashtra (Manisha Dange 21, Renu Maurya 18, Geo Blessen 13) 74-70 (14-18, 20-21, 22-16, 18-15).
  • Men: Services (Narender Grewal 25, Joginder Singh 16) bt. Karnataka (Anil Kumar 20) 90-53 (19-15, 28-11, 26-17, 17-10).

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