It is not always the battle for top honours that brings the best in players. Sometimes, the ignominy of finishing at the bottom of the table can be just as powerful a motivating force. In this desperate battle involving the 2 bottom placed teams in Pool A, Rail Coach Factory (RCF) and Karnataka, there was no love lost between the sides. In the end, RCF pulled through by the skin of their teeth, wresting a hard fought 57-53 win and leaving Karnataka as the only team in Pool B with no win against their name. Bijender Kumar single-handedly won the game for RCF, bulldozing his way to the basket whenever he pleased. He ended up with a mammoth 30 points. Karnataka found able contributions from youngsters – centre Arvind S (14 pts) and substitute Yashas (12 pts).

This was a match which displayed a no-frills approach by either side. It was fight and not finesse that was the preferred strategy for both teams. Influential Karnataka captain Srinivas Naik sat out the entire duration of this game, possibly to give his younger players their much needed exposure at the senior level. RCF managed this win without the creative brilliance of Arjun Singh, the young international playmaker who twisted his ankle earlier in the league stage. Both teams will now follow the rest of the tournament from the sidelines.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

A Sea of white: Both sides turned up wearing white. It left the spectators scratching their heads wondering which player was on which team. For the more active participants i.e. the players on the floor, officials, bench players and coaches, it didn’t seem to affect them one bit.

From Punjab with love: The Punjab men’s team, who had lost earlier in the evening to ONGC, but still qualified for the semi finals, had turned up to watch this match between the two bottom-placed teams from their pool. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game, especially the performance of the quicksilver Yashas from Karnataka. The substitute junior guard showed that he could battle with the best despite his obvious limitations in size and strength.

Gopalakrishnan R
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