|Saturday – January 25th, 2014|
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]
Team India. Copyright Ekalavyas.
An inspired India came out all guns blazing to surprise the much higher rated Angola, ranked 15th in the world, to win a close contest at the world class Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium at Goa University, Panjim. This second league match from Group B was played between two teams that had earlier beaten Guinea Bissau. With this morale boosting win, India has now topped Group B and will play against Group A’s second placed team Cape Verde in the semifinals tomorrow.
To be fair and to put things in perspective, the Angola side that is on display at these Lusofonia Games is the national u-25 team. Most seniors from the Angola side are busy with other playing assignments in their domestic league. Another dynamic that has to be factored in is the vociferous home support that India enjoyed throughout this match. The near capacity Goan crowd that gathered was busy cheering for India and jeering Angola in equal measure.
Buoyed by home advantage and their own inner drive, India left everything on the floor and produced highlight plays virtually on every possession whether on the offensive or defensive end. The intent and focus was visible among the Indian players at the very start as Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi was heard furiously pumping up his side in the pregame huddle at the centre of the court.
India led right from the opening tip and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the match. The very first points that India scored were through 7ft Centre Amrit Mann’s transition slamdunk. This was an indicator of things to come. Soon enough, veteran point guard with the magical touch Sambhaji Kadam, got his playmaking going with multiple no look passes to his teammates after cutting into the heart of the opposition defense. India Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and small forward Yadwinder Singh soon joined the scoring with some peerless outside shooting. Not to be left behind, young guard from Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) Pratham Singh made some tough layups by fearlessly driving to the basket. By halftime, India led by a whopping 18 points!
The second half saw the inevitable fightback by the never-say-die Angola side. They clamped down on the defensive end and repeatedly kept getting to the foul line on offense. Their aggression had the Indian frontcourt of Amjyot Singh and Amrit Mann in serious foul trouble. Angola, in fact, enjoyed an overall rebounding advantage of 58% (as against 42% for India). By the end of the third quarter, India’s double digit lead had been cut down to just 8 points. That’s when India Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi stepped up.
Leading from the front, Bhriguvanshi kept India ahead with his aggressive scoring in the paint despite hard contact. Bhriguvanshi had multiple three point plays to his credit and shot an impressive 64% from the field. He also had 12 defensive boards to record a match winning double double of 23 points, 12 rebounds as well as 6 assists.
Late in the fourth quarter, with 34 seconds left in the match, Angola hit a clutch three pointer to bring India’s lead down to just two points. To make matters worse, Vishesh fumbled the ball near the half court line to give away possession to Angola. With the game clock winding down, Angola had a chance to tie the game but missed a jumpshot as well as an offensive tip in. India then converted a freethrow in the dying seconds to win a nerve wracking game 78-75.
HE SAID SHE SAID- I
“They (Angola) are a great team. They have been up among the top teams in the world for a long time. I told the guys that this will probably be the only time when we’ll get to play a big international tournament in India, where we get a home crowd like this. We wanted to take care of business here and that’s a first step. Now we want to go for a medal and aim the highest we can. But we’ll enjoy this win, at least for tonight.”
– India’s Head Coach Scott Flemming, after the win.
“We didn’t bring the main team. The senior players aren’t here. This is the u-25 team.The main senior players are busy playing in the national league. In any case our focus now is to put this match behind us and win the semifinals against Mozambique. We will take it one step at a time.”
– Angola’s Head Coach Manuel Sousa
HE SAID SHE SAID- II
“I hope so. We won this one! There are some things we could have done different in the end, but we made some big free throws and we got the stop in the end. So I’m not going to complain. The bottom line is that we got the win and did what we had to do to win the game. We went out of our zone and played man to man towards the end. Our zone defense has been really good for us here (in this tournament), but we didn’t want to give up the easy three, so I thought playing man to man defense helped us in this win. We knew that Angola is too good a team. Ideally with an 18 point lead at halftime you’d love to win the game by a margin of 30 points. But we knew that’s not going to happen against a team like Angola.
I’m still not sure if we are now the team to beat, but we are willing to take that reputation. We are taking it one game at a time and now we have to win two more (semis and finals).”
– Coach Flemming on whether India has learnt some lessons from its losses at last year’s FIBA Asia Championships where India led against different oppositions at halftime only to lose in the end.