* Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar, images by Dulon Kharsati, with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R.
Bambolim, 9th March 2016: The opening day of the 30th Federation Cup 2016 got underway at 9.00 am today morning at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium here in Bambolim, Goa. The day was filled with top quality basketball action as the best club teams of the country took to the court.
The inauguration ceremony was held at 5 pm followed by the final match of the day between local team Don Bosco Oratory, Goa against North Western Railway, Rajasthan.
Fr Ralin D’Souza, President of the Goa Basketball Association gave the welcome address. The Chief Guest on the occasion was Mr Francis D’Souza, Deputy Chief Minister of Goa. Other guests of honour included Mr Michael Lobo (Calangute-MLA) and Mr Siddharth Kunkolienkar (Panjim-MLA). A cultural programme followed organised by the Cecille’s Academy of Performing Arts, with 120 young students all dancing in perfect unison.
After the inauguration, the last game of the opening day was a men’s game between home team Don Bosco Oratory, Goa (DBO) and the winners of the inter-railways tournament North-western Railways, Jaipur (NWR). DBO were undersized and overmatched against NWR, who jumped onto an early lead and kept increasing the gap between the teams throughout the game. After a 20-5 lead established in the first quarter by the starters, NWR used almost their entire bench for the rest of the game. Jainesh Patel put up 16 points for NWR and Abdul Rahim Khan contributed with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. For DBO, Shawn Soares was the lone bright spark with 16 points while Aaron Fernandes (who trained at the Basic Ball Academy, Dubai) had 6 points and 3 assists.
The tournament began with a thrilling contest between the Vijaya Bank men’s team based in Bengaluru, Karnataka and Bhiwani Club from Bhiwani, Haryana. Both teams featured international players playing alongside young, athletic sidekicks. For Vijaya Bank, backup international point guard Rajesh Uppar led the way with double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. International forward Aravind Arumugam provided the frontcourt presence with 14 points and 12 rebounds, including 6 offensive boards. The game was close for the first three quarters, but in the beginning of the fourth, Vijaya Bank pulled away, building a double-digit lead with five minutes left. Guard Anil Kumar contributed for Vijaya Bank with 17 points. But Bhiwani Club fought their way back into the contest, led by the play of international guard Narender Grewal (27 points). His backcourt mate and international point guard Joginder Singh had an off day shooting-wise connecting on only 5 of his 17 3-point attempts. With under a minute of play left and the scores tied at 70, Vijaya Bank’s Rajesh Uppar nailed a deep 2-pointer off a broken play to give his team a slim lead. Bhiwani could not connect on the next possession and Vijaya Bank held on to clinch 75-70 win.
The first women’s game was between Chhattisgarh and Goa, which turned out to be a completely one-side contest. Goa did not have the size or the offensive firepower to match Chhattisgarh. Chattisgarh’s 6’9’’ centre Poonam Chaturvedi had her way in the game scoring 53 points with ease. Chhattisgarh ended up blowing out Goa with a 109-21 victory.
In the afternoon, Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai had their first game against Kerala Police. The IOB team was similar to the one at the Senior Nationals earlier this year, with the addition of veteran forwards Vineeth Mathew, Mihir Pandey and Abhilek Paul along with guard S. Arvind. The backcourt of Pratham Singh and Prasanna Venkatesh along with forward Aravind Annadurai remained the core line-up of the team. The strong IOB side took this game quite easily against the undersized Kerala Police team, leading from start to finish. The big lead early in the game allowed IOB to rotate their players and get good production out of the bench. Forward Mihir Pandey top scored for IOB with 18 points, while guards Hareesh K. and Siva Balan had 14 points each in the 85-53 triumph. Jomon Jose put up 15 points for the Kerala Police in a losing effort.
Immediately after, the defending champions ONGC, Dehradun squared off against a young and athletic Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) side. The game turned out to be closer than expected with LBA jumping to an early lead ending the first quarter up 19 to 16. Junior India player Arshpreet Bhullar was LBA’s go-to scorer, connecting on his long-range shots and finding success driving to the basket. ONGC, however, ensured that LBA did not run away with a big lead, remaining within 5 points of LBA for the first three quarters. The fourth quarter was a different story, as ONGC showcased their experience in closing out a game outscoring LBA 30 to 15 in the last period. India captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi (24 points) was his usual brilliant self, getting to the basket with ease and either scoring or creating for his team. Veteran guard Trideep Rai had a great shooting game connecting on tough shots from mid-range and outside the 3-point line. Rai scored a game-high 27 points as ONGC executed well down the stretch to close out on a 79-66 victory.
The second and final women’s game of Day 1 was between the South-east Central Railways (SECR) team based in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh and the Telangana women’s team. Telangana, who were the semifinalists in this year’s senior nationals, were comprised entirely of players from the South Central Railways based in Hyderabad. The SECR lineup featured a few players from the Indian Railways squad that won the senior nationals. It was a battle of evenly matched teams with both teams trading buckets to begin the game. After the first quarter, Telangana began to put some distance between them and SECR. P. Divya was aggressive throughout the game for Telangana on her way to a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds. Telangana’s M. Gayathri scored a team-high 16 points. Telangana held around a 5-point lead over SECR throughout the second and third quarters and were up 57 to 51 with five minutes left in the game. But Chhattisgarh’s stretch forward Seema Singh knocked down a couple of late 3-pointers to keep her team in the contest. Telangana regained the lead 60 to 59 with M. Gayathri hitting one out of two freethrows in the final minute. With one possession left to win the game, Chhattisgarh’s Bharti Netam found herself open on the 3-point line and she drained the buzzer-beating triple to seal the deal 62 to 59.
Results from Day 1
ONGC, Dehradun (Trideep Rai 27, Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi 24, Riyazuddin 18) bt Ludhiana Basketball Academy (Arshpreet Singh Bhullar 20, Harmanpreet Singh 12, Jaipal Singh Mann 8) 79-66 (16-19, 14-14, 19-18, 30-15)
About the Federation Cup
The Shyama Prasad Mukherjee indoor stadium in the Goa University Campus is the venue for the 30th Federation Cup National Basketball Championship for Men and Women 2016. Matches will be played on a league cum knockout basis. There are nine men’s teams and eight women’s teams in the fray. Headlining the men’s teams will be defending champions ONGC, Uttarakhand and last year’s runners up Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Chennai. Among women teams, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Delhi will start off as hot contenders.
League matches will be played from 9th to 12th March, followed by the semifinals and finals on 13th and 14th respectively. In both the men’s and women’s sections, teams have been divided into two preliminary groups.The Federation Cup is held annually and is the most coveted tournament for basketball clubs/state teams throughout India.
Generally speaking, in the men’s section, the top 8 state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship send the Champion District/Unit/Club of the State Championship/Inter-district/Inter-Unit. In the women’s section, the top 8 state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship are eligible to participate, along with the Champion team of the Indian Railways Unit.
Another significance of the Federation Cup is that it serves as the qualifying tournament for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup for Men, which pits the top clubs in the continent against each other. The winning men’s team from the Federation Cup qualifies to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
Last year, the 29th Federation Cup National Basketball Championship for Men and Women was organized by Basketball Federation of India in association with Maharashtra State Basketball Association and Poona District Basketball Association, and was held at Shiv Chattrapathi Krida Sankul, Mhalunge, Balewadi, Pune, Maharashtra from 29th March to 2nd April 2015. ONGC, Uttarakhand and Southern Railway were crowned champions in the men’s and women’s divisions respectively.