|Sunday – January 26th, 2014|
|FINAL. ANGOLA WINS.|
A young u-21 Indian team tripped over its own feet to lose against an Angola side which also comprised junior (u-23) players. India led at the end of the first and second quarters, but slowly conceded ground to Angola in the second half to lose by a final margin of 66-58. With this loss, India has ended the 2014 Lusofonia Games campaign in third place out of the four participating teams.
For the second consecutive game, after its previous loss to Mozambique, India struggled to compete against a taller and physically stronger African side. Unlike the match against Mozambique though, which featured experienced senior players who will travel later this year to compete at the World Championships in Turkey, this time around India had a real chance to pull off an upset win.
The tone of the match was set very early in the first quarter: India would trust its jump shooting prowess and Angola would choose to muscle its way to the basket or else score from the foul line. Both teams stuck to their respective scoring strategies with moderate success (India shot an overall 35% from the field and Angola was 34%). The only reason Angola won in the end was that it managed to have 14 more field goal attempts (74) in the match as compared to India’s 60 FGA.
After leading 30-28 at halftime, India started slipping but was still very much in reckoning at the end of the third quarter as it trailed only by one point (45-44). However, crucial turnovers in the last quarter allowed Angola easy fast break opportunities that took the match away from India.
Angola’s Merciana Fernandes top scored for her side with 17 points. For India, 17-year-old Poojamol KS scored 22 points which included four three pointers.
We caught up with India Head Coach Francisco Garcia for a detailed chat and here are his candid comments on where our team currently stands and the road ahead:
On the reasons behind today’s loss
“Well in the last quarter we were exhausted which resulted in some turnovers in crucial moments. But I’m still really proud of the girls as they fought against an u-23 team which was the African Champions three years ago in the u-20 division. Yesterday (in the 46-92 loss against Mozambique) I was quite disappointed with the team’s attitude, but today I had no complaints at all.”
On the absence of influential seniors Geethu Anna Jose, Anitha Pauldurai, Manisha Dange, Prashanti Singh and Raspreet Sidhu
“I decided to bring young kids to check who among them has the ability to compete in the Asian Games. (The Asian Games is scheduled for September this year in South Korea). I agree that our bench was quite limited in this tournament, but we must handle it the way it is.”
On the positives & negatives
“The positive thing is to see 17-year-old kids like (Uttar Pradesh’s) Preeti Kumari and (Kerala’s) Poojamol KS compete well at this level. The negative points are our lack of toughness on several key moments and how to play with the score and the clock. But these are things that we we’ll surely improve on with more exposure. These girls are young and are at an age when they will make mistakes. I think if we work properly with them there will be a couple of players from this crop who will shine at the senior level. Even the FIBA Commissioner came at the end to congratulate us for the great work, and when I told him that the kids are under 21, he was shocked.”
The Road Ahead
“First of all, we must get more exposure. It is only from making mistakes that you learn the right things. We really need more of these tournaments (like the Lusofonia Games). Secondly, our girls need to improve their strength and conditioning.”
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]