16-04-13: Punjab decimated RCF to book their place in the semi-finals of the 28th RMBT 2013.

It was a Punjab show all the way as they led for nearly the entire duration of the game. With this back to back win (they had beaten Karnataka earlier in the tournament), Punjab are now through to the semi-finals. Their final league game is against ONGC on Thursday, 18-04-13, who also registered their second straight “W” beating Karnataka later in the day. The match  between ONGC and Punjab will decide the top team in Pool A, which will then take on the 2nd ranked team in Pool B in the semi-finals.

In what could be a possible fallout of the draining loss late on Tuesday night to ONGC, the RCF players appeared to be slow on their feet. Their best playmaker, the young and talented Arjun Singh (14) who is the only player on the side with international experience, sprained his ankle in the opening moments of the game. His absence cost the side dearly against a Punjab team that played a perfect zone defense.

Without Arjun, RCF lacked the outside shooting (0 for 6 from distance) and crisp perimeter passing needed to break a zone. The energy seemed sucked out of them and Punjab took full advantage, pushing the tempo of the game, mainly through no. 12 Amritpal Singh and no. 4 Jatinder Kumar. Amritpal top scored with 28 points. Punjab raked up a 13 point lead by half time. They led by as many as 32 points in the third quarter before settling for a 71-46 win.

Key Performances

Punjab found an unlikely hero in the form of the smaller no. 6 Jatinder Kumar, who had 12 points. He repeatedly exploded for the break and was a nightmare for the opposition perimeter players on the defensive end, forcing the ball handlers one way and reaching around to steal the ball, a classic technique used by the smaller, quick players.

Highlight Plays

No. 8 of Punjab, Ranbir Singh is a fine physical specimen and he made full use of his athleticism in this game. He also possesses good ball handling skills and an outside shot, which makes him virtually unstoppable in a one on one scenario. His highlight play in this game was during one such isolation situation. His teammates cleared space for him on the right hand corner. Ranbir does a series of crosses and recrosses in front of his body, baiting the defender. At the exact moment of the defender leaning forward, Ranbir explodes down the baseline for a layup, leaving his guardian in the dust wondering what had just happened.

Momentum Shifts

11 seconds. That was all the time that RCF held the lead in this game, right at the start of the match. At one point of time in the third quarter, Punjab were leading by as many as 32 points.

Ab reason kya bataayen! There is a lot of responsibility on me as a playmaker since I am part of a young side. There is still a little pain. Kal physio se milne ke baad status pataa chalega (Will meet with the physio tomorrow for an update) .”

–       Arjun Singh, RCF, who was on the court for only 5:46 mins after spraining his ankle in the opening moments of the game

Thumbs up

Punjab’s zone defense. For the second straight game their opposition hasn’t been able to break their zone defense. The zone setup also ensured that their most explosive player, the international Amritpal Singh (12) remained on top of the key on defense. This allowed him to explode for the fast break as soon as his teammates secured the ball. This gave Punjab a 12-0 advantage in fast break opportunities.

The RCF Bench: The RCF second unit contributed 24 points as against 2 points for Punjab. Though this statistic makes no difference in the context of this game, it augurs well for a young team trying to build towards the future.

Thumbs Down

RCF’s low energy led them to turn the ball over as many as 12 times. They were also out-rebounded (30-27) and conceded 42 points in the paint. Against the Punjab zone defense, they relied on too many cross court passes and baseline drives, instead of trying to get the ball into the high post. This limited their scoring opportunities.

Sights and sounds

Live commentary has begun! Vinod Muthukumar and Jonathan Rego will entertain and inform all those from across the world who are tuned into the live video streaming of these RMBT games. For the slightly old school, you still have these match reports to fall back on.

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

Gopalakrishnan R
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