|Saturday – January 25th, 2014|
|Final. Mozambique Win.|
Play by Play
(*note that all four teams below have already qualified to Level 1 and these matches are being held for the sole purpose of granting the two winning teams the right to choose their pre-quarter final opponent from level 1)
Girls: Kerala 60 (Nivya Raj 20, Anusha 19) bt Maharashtra 53 (Shruti 21, Neha 12) [21-11, 13-17, 13-11, 13-14]
India’s Shireen Limaye falls to the ground alongwith a Mozambique player. Photo Courtesy: Basketball Federation of India.
Despite battling till the very end, India couldn’t avoid a morale sapping defeat against a Mozambique side that was physically far superior and more cohesive. India’s veterans Geethu Anna Jose, Anitha Pauldurai and Manisha Dange were sorely missed on an evening when tactical acumen and maturity could have gone a long way in neutralizing Mozambique’s comparative size and strength advantage. The Mozambique team that is participating at these Lusofonia Games is the full strength senior team that will also feature at the World Championships in Turkey later this year.
This is one match where the numbers speak for themselves. Mozambique enjoyed statistical pluses in the two main categories that depend on physicality: rebounding (60% against India’s 40%) and points in the paint (40 against 22). Since Mozambique was able to get closer to the basket, their field goal percentage was also considerably higher (45% as against India’s 30%). The balanced Mozambique side saw a huge contributions from its bench players who scored a staggering 44 points, more than half the team’s total. India’s bench had little to offer in support to the starting five (scoring 7 points out of the team total of 46).
Maharashtra’s Shireen Limaye was the lone bright spot for India and she seemed to be the only Indian player who could compete at a physical level against Mozambique for long stretches of the match. Shireen’s (15 points and 10 rebounds) performance will be remembered for its tenacity and fortitude.
India was also repeatedly troubled by Mozambique’s constant pressing defense. On numerous occasions, India could simply not get the ball across the half court line without a sea of red Mozambique jerseys swarming the unfortunate Indian player with possession of the ball.
With this loss, India now faces a must win match tomorrow against another African powerhouse Angola. A win tomorrow could guarantee India a silver medal, and a loss would resign India to a third place finish out of the four women teams in the fray at this edition of the Lusofonia Games.
We had spoken to Coach Garcia prior to the match and he had cautioned us about India’s chances against the strong African teams. “The main problem is that the Indian women basketballers are playing competitively all year round. We need a professional league so that they can practice every single week with greater toughness in each practice session. Without our senior players, this team is very young. They are at an age when they are going to make mistakes, but we need to be patient with this bunch as they have a lot of talent as well. We understand that Angola has brought it’s under 23 team, so that match will be more competitive.”