*Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar, with inputs from Gopalakrishnan R. Images by Dulon Kharsati.
Bambolim, 14th March 2016: The sixth and final day of the Federation Cup 2016 saw old rivals taking on each other in a battle for first place. Kerala women clinched gold defeating Chhattisgarh in a tight game, while defending champions ONGC, Dehradun defeated Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai in the men’s final. Poonam Chaturvedi was awarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the women’s category and India captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi won MVP honours in the men’s section.
Men’s legends felicitated
The Basketball Federation of India also befittingly chose the finale of the Federation Cup to felicitate yesteryear Senior India basketball legends. The players felicitated were Mr Hanuman Singh (Arjuna Awardee), Mr Hanif Patel, Mr Mohammed Rizwan, Mr G Dilip Murthy, Mr Siraj Ahmed (all former India men’s players), Mr Ajay Sud (Vice President-BFI), Mr K Govindaraj (President-BFI), Mr SK Kataria, Mr Abbas Moontasir (both Arjuna Awardees), Mr Sat Prakash Yadav (current head coach of the Indian men’s team and former India men’s player), Mr Reginald Rajan (former India player) and Mr Parminder Singh (Arjuna Awardee).
Shri K Govindaraj, President-BFI announced a cash award of Rs 25000/- to each of these players as a token of appreciation towards their contribution to Indian basketball.
Defending champions ONGC, Dehradun retain their crown
Old foes ONGC, Dehradun and Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai (IOB) met once again in a final at the national stage. The two best club teams in India have been sharing honours for the past several years and know each other’s style of play pretty well. Defending champions ONGC have won the last three Federation Cups and were looking to make it four in a row this year.
ONGC got off to the best possible start they could hope for, coming out all guns blazing after tip-off. Internationals Yadwinder Singh and Vishesh Bhrighunvashi provided the early scoring. The India captain was especially fired up, aggressively driving to the basket in transition and somehow finding a way to finish. ONGC’s 20-0 start stunned IOB, who were struggling to get their offense going in the first quarter. Pratham Singh was the only player able to penetrate and finish, scoring all of his team’s 6 first quarter points. Down 27-6 entering the second quarter, IOB quietened ONGC by going on a scoring run of their own, led by Pratham Singh and forward Aravind Annadurai. Pratham found his touch from long range in the second quarter, knocking down a couple of triples, while Aravind operating in the paint for his buckets. IOB shut down ONGC’s scoring in the defensive end as well, restricting ONGC to only 4 points in the second quarter.
With IOB down by only 5 points at halftime, the game was in the balance. The veterans played their part for IOB in the third quarter, keeping them in the contest. Guard Hareesh Koroth came alive knocking down a tough double-pump jumper, followed by a big triple. Senior forward Mihir Pandey (10 points) showed his dexterity in the low post scoring a couple of baskets to cut ONGC’s lead. IOB went on a mini-run with Pratham getting to the basket a couple of times on and-1 finishes to give IOB their first lead of the game. But ONGC matched IOB’s scoring in the third quarter, led by Vishesh’s strong drives to the basket. Point guard Riyazuddin hit a timely 3-pointer, while Yadwinder Singh’s aggression in the post yielded success.
In the final period, with IOB down by 4 points, IOB’s big men Mihir Pandey and Aravind Annadurai played the low post-high post game, with Aravind (13 points) finishing off nice feeds from Mihir. Pratham Singh was emphatic in his penetration and drawing fouls, but his outside shooting was off the mark, which deeply hurt IOB. For ONGC, Vishesh kept pushing the tempo in transition, using his athleticism to finish strong. Yadwinder’s play in the fourth quarter proved to be the X-factor today, as he knocked down surprising deep jumpers. ONGC pulled away to establish a 10-point lead with under 5 minutes of play left. IOB’s offensive troubles continued in the final minutes, as they were forced into taking tough deep jumpers. Trideep Rai had a late 3 pointer and Riyazuddins two late transition buckets sealed the deal for ONGC as they blew the game wide open and registered a 73-57 victory. ONGC kept up their dominance in the Federation Cup, winning the tournament for a record 4 times in a row.
Kerala women clinch gold
In the women’s final, runners up from the senior nationals, Kerala squared off against Chhattisgarh. The teams are facing each other for the second time in this tournament. After a blowout loss in the league stages, Chhattisgarh were keen to exact revenge today.
The game was a battle of contrasting styles of play. Kerala got off to a quick start with forward Jeena Scaria knocking down mid-range jumpers in transition. Guard Neenumol found her touch from outside the 3-point arc, draining three long-range jumpers in the first quarter. Chhattisgarh’s 6 foot 9 inch centre Poonam Chaturvedi struggled in the early going with Kerala putting multiple bodies on her and denying her the ball. Kerala centre Stephy Nixon ensured that Poonam did not get into easy post position, pushing her away from her comfort zone. Kerala also played tight man-to-man defense on Chhattisgarh’s guards, hounding their passers and putting extra pressure on the lobs to Poonam inside.
On the offensive end, Stephy came out to play, putting her post skills on show. Poonam was too slow to match Stephy’s array of moves in the post. But Chhattisgarh never managed to fall far behind Kerala. Despite the pressure on Poonam, she did manage to put up 17 points in the first half. Saranjeet Kaur was the only Chhattisgarh guard who managed to effectively penetrate into the paint and finish at the bucket. At halftime, Chhattisgarh were only down by two points 43 to 41.
Stephy continued to be on fire in the second half. She managed to establish deep post position on multiple occasions, catching the ball inside and knocking down close jumpers. Neenumol also hurt Chhattisgarh with her timely 3-pointers adding to Kerala’s small lead. Kerala showed excellent ball movement on offense, with almost all five players touching the ball on each possession. Jeena (22 points) and Stephy (26 points) shot 50% from the field with all their shots coming from inside the 3-point arc.
The offensive woes continued for Chhattisgarh’s guards who had problems penetrating against Kerala’s tight defense. With Poonam always being double-teamed, it was up to the rest of the Chhattisgarh squad to score the points. But only Saranjeet Kaur (21 points) had enough control over the ball to find her way to the bucket. Unfortunately for Chhattisgarh, apart from Poonam and Saranjeet, there was very little offensive contribution for the rest of the team. They were unable to create many second chance opportunities against the bigger Kerala lineup either, who secured their defensive glass well. Kerala enjoyed the rebounding advantage on the offensive end as well, pulling down 19 offensive rebounds (compared to Chhatisgarh’s 5), leading to 18 second chance points. Anjana PG and Rojamol provided the hustle elements to the Kerala team, grabbing 4 offensive rebounds each and playing tight defense.
Entering the fourth quarter, Kerala held a 9-point lead. But in the first five minutes of the fourth, Chhattisgarh fought back led by Poonam’s scoring. Riya Verma knocked down a crucial triple for Chhattisgarh with around five minutes left in the game to cut Kerala’s lead down to 4. That was the closest they got to Kerala though. Kerala sustained their scoring in the final minutes, while shutting down Chhattisgarh on the defensive end. Jeena’s mid-range jumper in the dying minutes was the final nail in the coffin for Chhattisgarh who succumbed to a 80-71 loss. The powerhouse Kerala side went one better than the senior nationals to clinch gold in the Federation Cup 2016.
Third place matches
Earlier in the day, the South Central Railways team from Telangana won third place defeating the South-eastern Central Railways, Bilaspur women 65-56. Telangana were led by M. Gayathri’s 20 points and P. Divya’s 18 points. In the men’s third place match, Army Red edged past Vijaya Bank, Bengaluru to clinch the bronze medal. Karnataka guard Mayur Bhat had 23 points in Army’s victory, while Vijaya Bank forward Arvind Arumugam had 25 points in the losing effort.
Kerala (Stephy Nixon 26pts, Jeena PS 22pts 6asts, Neenumol PS 21pts 6asts) bt Chhattisgarh (Poonam Chaturvedi 33pts 11rbs, Sharanjeet Kaur 21pts 6asts, Riya Verma 12pts) 80-71 (23-17, 20-24, 22-15, 15-15)
ONGC, Dehradun (Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi 20pts, Yadwinder Singh 17pts 10rbs, Trideep Rai 15pts) bt Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai (Pratham Singh 25pts, Aravind Annadurai 13pts 16rbs, Mihir Pandey 10pts) 73-57 (27-5, 4-21, 20-21, 22-10)
Third place matches:
Telangana (M. Gayathri 20pts, P. Divya 18pts, Jincy J. 10pts, R. Ramya 10pts) bt South-eastern Central Railways, Bilaspur (Seema Singh 26pts 15rbs, Sangeeta Kaur 11pts, Akansha S 7pts) 65-56 (11-10, 22-8, 20-17, 12-21)
TOP FOUR STANDINGS
- South-eastern Central Railways, Bilaspur
MVP: Poonam Chaturvedi of Chhattisgarh
- ONGC, Dehradun
- Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai
- Army Red
- Vijaya Bank, Bengaluru
MVP: Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi of ONGC, Dehradun
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.