In two emotionally charged rollercoaster affairs, the Chhattisgarh girls and Delhi boys were crowned champions in the 64th Junior National Basketball Championship in Cuttack, Odisha.
Chhattisgarh girls repeat as champions
Defending champions Chattisgarh began the finals as overwhelming favourites, in large part due to their dominating centre Poonam Chaturvedi. Poonam, who dwarfed all the other girls in the competition, averaged a miraculous 46 ppg throughout the tournament. Tonight, when it mattered the most, Poonam stepped up yet again with an astounding 43 points and 19 rebounds to keep a never-say-die Kerala side at bay.
After trailing at the end of the first three quarters, Kerala came within two points midway through the final period. Poojamol K. S. scored a valiant 33 points from all parts of the floor that included offensive putbacks, fast breaks and five three pointers. She also grabbed 13 rebounds to almost match Poonam’s performance. By the final buzzer though, the result predictably ended in favour of Chhattisgarh.
Delhi boys return to the top
“This was a very challenging time for all of us. Every year we come and get knocked out in the quarterfinals or pre-quarterfinals. This year we finally made it to the finals. Everybody was saying that the Punjab team is extraordinary, so we wanted to beat them,” Delhi Coach Rajesh Kumar had told us prior to the finals.
Quietly, and away from the spotlight, the boys from Delhi belied everybody’s expectations to go all the way this year. The focus in the boys section is usually always on the traditionally strong teams of Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and most recently, defending champion Chhattisgarh. A depleted Chhattisgarh side finished 8th, Tamil Nadu and Kerala bowed out in the semis. Delhi were faced with the daunting task of beating a Punjab side featuring supremely gifted athletes, including who, many are touting as India’s basketball savior, the 7ft 1 inchSatnam Singh Bhamara.
Delhi’s win was not pretty. They clawed, pushed, tumbled and recovered to score an unbelievable 52 points in the paint against a supposedly unbreakable Punjab frontline wall. Punjab’s international guard Loveneet Singhfailed to create an impression in the match and was outdone by Delhi’s backcourt duo of Narender and Sohal Singh. Delhi’s Centre Gaurav Ohlan who has been consistently averaging double doubles throughout the tournament was rightly declared the Most Valuable Player in the boys section.
Felicitations and Cash Prizes
The winning teams were awarded Rs 1, 00, 000 each. The first runners up, Kerala girls and Punjab boys won Rs 75,000 each and the second runners up Tamil Nadu boys and Maharashtra won Rs 50,000. The two MVP’s in the boys and girls section, Delhi’s Gaurav Ohlan and Chhattisgarh’s Kavita Akula won Rs 15,000 each. During halftime of both the finals, the silver medal winning girls and boys teams at the inaugural FIBA Asia 3X3 Tournament were awarded cash prizes of Rs 50,000 each.
Note: This article has been published with permission from the Basketball Federation of India. The original article, on the BFI website, can be accessed here.