Kannur, Kerala: It couldn’t have been scripted better. They say every champion has one last game left in them. Today Uttarakhand’s point guard Riyazuddin, who last played on the Indian team four years ago, proved his mettle when it mattered the most. Virtually taking over his team’s offense from the end of regulation till the end of second overtime, he struck repeatedly from downtown and from the freethrow line to carry his team to a gold medal over a spirited Tamil Nadu team.
The match had numerous heroes for both teams. Tamil Nadu found prime clutch form through centre Aravind, small forward Prasanna Venkatesh and guard Pratham Singh, while in regulation, Uttarakhand relied heavily on centre Amrit Pal Singh, guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and the all round play of Yadwinder Singh.
The initial proceedings saw Tamil Nadu take a six point lead only to see that lead erased at halftime. Uttarakhand continued its scoring spree thanks to an unstoppable Amritpal Singh who had back to back rim rattlers. By the end of third quarter, the momentum had completely shifted in Uttarakhand’s favour and they led 65-55. The match would turn yet again, this time in Tamil Nadu’s favour with the final score at the end of regulation reading 81-81.
Both teams feature multiple current and ex-internationals and the experience showed in the composure of the two sides in the first overtime. Not settling for outside jumpshots and making good use of the shot clock, the first OT saw the two sides score 11 points each. By this time, the match had already witnessed 10 lead changes with 11 tied scores. Each team had led for nearly 23 minutes. But that was until Riyazuddin took over in the final few minutes to carry his team to a significant double for the year- champions at last month’s 65th Senior Nationals and champions here at the 35th National Games.
Kerala women crowned champions at home
Buoyed by incredible and cacophonous home support of over 5000 local Kannur residents, hosts Kerala women secured the basketball gold medal beating Tamil Nadu for the second time in these 35th National Games.
Playing with poise and purpose, Kerala went on a tear right from the start, opening up a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter saw the already wobbly Tamil Nadu offense go into a complete meltdown and they could muster just four points in the entire period, as against 12 for Kerala. International centre R Rajapriyadarshini of Tamil Nadu was completely negated by rival international centre Stephy Nixon, whose defensive work throughout this tournament deserves praise. Offensively, Kerala found regular scoring from Jeena PS and teen star Poojamol KS.
The third quarter finally saw Tamil Nadu outscoring Kerala 16-11, thanks to some excellent full court pressure defense that led to easy buckets for veteran India player Anitha Pauldurai. However, this was the only silver lining in an otherwise under-par performance for a team of Tamil Nadu’s calibre. The final score read 56-36 and a deserving Kerala team were awarded the gold medal in front of an overjoyed home crowd. Kerala has always had the talent but lacked consistency. This National Games win couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Karnataka women and Services men finish third
Earlier in the afternoon, Karnataka women secured a welcome bronze medal with a revenge win over Maharashtra, a team it had lost to in the earlier league rounds. In the men’s bronze medal match, Karnataka’s male counterparts had no such luck, falling yet again to Services 53-90.
Results for 13/2/15
Uttarakhand (Amritpal Singh 38 pts & 18 rbs, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 20, Yadwinder Singh 18 pts & 17 rbs, Riyazuddin 17) bt Tamil Nadu (Prasanna Venkatesh 28, Aravind 20 pts & 10 rbs, Pratham Singh 18) 105-97 [17-23, 23-17, 25-15, 16-26, 11-11 (OT1), 13-5 (OT2)]