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Date: 14-04-13: The match of the day by far! The clash of the Pool B Titans! A mouth-watering clash and no better way to sign off the opening day’s action.

Both teams with highly-skilled, experienced and physically imposing players. IOB’s star-studded line up included current and former internationals like Hareesh Koroth (7), Vineeth Ravi Mathew (5), Rikin Pethani (4) and Mihir Pandey (9). Rounding off their starting five was the young and exciting no. 15 Pratham Singh, who has already represented India at the junior level and is fresh off his match winning performances in the 3 on 3 Nationals that ended last week.

For Indian Air Force, the team was led by the usual suspects— the dynamic and experienced backcourt duo of current internationals Joginder Singh (4) and Narender Kumar (5).

There was very little to choose from between these two teams. The scores remained neck and neck throughout, with both teams executing to near perfection. In the first half, IOB exploited their size advantage by lobbing the ball inside to their centre Rikin, who either backed his defender down to score in the paint, or else kicked the ball out to his teammates.

IAF though, answered every time, mainly through the devastating quickness of Joginder and Narender, who cut through the rival defences whenever they pleased, drawing the double teams and kicking the ball out to the open man, either at the top of the key or in the corner. By halftime the scores were tied at 32 points a piece. Eventually though, IOB sneaked home 72-65, thanks to Mihir Pandey’s playmaking abilities and a side which contained multiple scoring options.

IAF’s no. 5 Narender Singh, outscored players from either side with 27 points, with some assistance from centre Parveen Kumar who had 16. IOB had 4 players in double digits, led by Hareesh Koroth with 19 points.

Key Performances

Tough to identify one stand out player from IOB. They kept making the right play on each possession, with the result that there was balanced scoring for their side with more than 4 players scoring in double digits. But if we had to single out one IOB player, it would be the veteran Mihir Pandey for his playmaking abilities. He showcased his versatility, switching seamlessly from positions 3 to 5. When his backcourt teammates Hareesh Koroth and Pratham Singh were on the bench, Mihir handled the ball.

When power forward Vineeth took time off, he played in the post, executing a series of moves down low, and reading the double teams to perfection. Even his mistakes seem to be for the good. When he missed a couple of his layups, he had anyway forced a double team on him which freed up his teammate for easy offensive put backs.

For IAF, the electrifying backcourt duo of no. 4 and 5 Joginder Singh and Narender Kumar lived up to their billing. They were quick as lightning, cutting to the heart of the opposition defence, drawing the resultant double teams and then calmly kicking it out to their teammates Parveen Kumar (at the high post) and no. 8 Ashutosh Rai.

Highlight Plays

No. 5 Narender Kumar, IAF: Ankle breaker on top of the key, as Mihir Pandey fell over trying to reach in for the steal. Once Mihir Pandey was out of the picture, Kumar blew past the next defender for an easy layin.

Narender Kumar again: He came up with a huge block from behind on the much taller IOB centre Rikin Mathew. Just 2 plays later, Rikin returned the favour on the other end of the floor, rejecting the ball into the stands.

Joginder Singh’s no look passes: The 6 ft point guard of IAF had a series of breathtaking no look passes throughout the game, especially after cutting to the centre of rival defense. The highpoint undoubtedly was the alley up from the top of the key to Narender Kumar, who had executed a sudden spin move on the baseline to fly in for the mid-air catch and finish. This play would have made the highlight reel even at the NBA!

Momentum Shifts

The recurring theme for this game was IAF drawing to within 1 point of IOB, mainly through the heroics of their backcourt duo of Joginder and Narender, but IOB immediately pulling away with a 4-0 run. The game saw an incredible 20 lead changes, with the scores being tied 12 times.

Unity, team game—Basketball is a team game. Without (the right) combination between the players you can’t win in this game.”

–       Mihir Pandey, IOB’s chief playmaker, on the main reason behind his team’s victory

“We lost because of our height. Our rebounding numbers were low and our outside shooting didn’t work. We had nearly 10 wide open looks which we missed.”

–       Jora Singh, 9th Year Coach of IAF

 “It was an ok day. We were not upto the mark. We were lacking today in shooting.”

–       Mihir Pandey, IOB, ominously indicating that their team will only get better through the course of this tournament

My game was bad. I didn’t attempt as many 3s as I would have liked because I wasn’t shooting well. Also this ball is new to me and we weren’t able to get too many offensive rebounds, so I decided not to take too many outside shots.”

–       Hareesh Koroth, IOB, who had an uncharateristically quiet outside shooting night but still managed 19 points on 8/11 scoring from the field

Thumbs up

The execution of both teams. The focus of either side never wavered once from creating plays. They kept moving the ball to either side of the floor and showed patience in trying to get into the interior of the defence. Kudos to the experience of the players, the unity in both teams and the excellent coaching by Jora Singh (IAF) and Aezaz Ahmed for IOB!

IOB’s rebounding and size: Size does matter at the end of the day, and IOB had three players with 10 boards on more. They enjoyed an overall rebounding advantage of 59% to go along with 52 points in the paint.

Thumbs Down

A quiet outside shooting night for both teams:

IOB’s backcourt of Hareesh Koroth and Pratham Singh shot a combined 1/9 from beyond the 3 point line. The entire IOB averaged a negligible 7% 3Pt FG% (1/15).

Though Narender Singh had 27 points, he failed to score when left wide open from the outside (0 for 3). The same was true for his teammate Joginder (0 for 4). Had they made a couple of their outside shots, they could have forced the IOB defence to spread out. This would have opened up their driving lanes further for much easier drive ins and kick outs.

Sights and sounds

The Chief Guest for the game DCP Dattatrey Karale, Zone IV, Maharashtra Police, was warmly introduced to both teams at half time. Always good to have the cops on your side!

This event’s coverage is also available on the official Ramu Memorial website.

Gopalakrishnan R
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