Tehran, Sep 18 (IANS) India’s basketball team on Sunday stunned higher-ranked Chinese Taipei 80-68 to end the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge in seventh position at the Azadi Sports Complex here.
The margin of the 80-68 victory is especially significant considering that World No.48 Taipei had beaten World No.53 India by 24 points (90-66) earlier on in the preliminary group B.
Prior to that India had lost to Taipei by six points during the 38th William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament back in July.
India’s seventh-place finish out of a 12-team strong competition could well be its best performance in the last 28 years.
The side has had better finishes in terms of final standings in previous editions of this competition (which was formerly known as “FIBA Asia Cup” and “FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup”).
This is also the only time when India have beaten three higher ranked sides (China, Philippines and Taipei) in the same event.
In the match, having come off the bench in all previous seven games so far, Rikin Pethani made the most of his first start, literally grabbing the opportunity with both hands.
After captain Amritpal Singh opened the scoring for India, Pethani took over, scoring six straight points to tie the game at 8-8 midway through the first quarter.
A Taipei run sparked by the naturalised American Quincy Davis III followed, as India trailed 17-22 going into the second 10 minutes.
Pethani’s show continued in the second quarter, as India went to the half-time with a one-point lead, 33-32.
With his final statline reading 17 points and nine rebounds, most of which came in the first half, Pethani had done more than enough. In the second half, centre Amritpal and shooting guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi took over the charge.
A powerful dunk by Amritpal midway through the third got India a slender three-point lead at 36-39, before Taipei made another push of its own to lead 50-46.
The momentum swung back India’s way late in the period thanks to six unanswered points by India which included a two pointer by the streaky high octane backup guard Talwinderjit Sahi with just 8 seconds left.
India had now outscored Taipei in back to back quarters and led 52-50 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter continued in India’s favour, starting with a three pointer by Vishesh (his second of the game), and another two by Talwinderjit Singh.
But Taipei were in no mood to back down. Quincy Davis had a dunk of his own to bring it within five, before Yi-Hsiang Chou and Kai-Hsiang Hu combined to take Taipei back up by one point.
That though turned out to be Taipei’s last stand, as captain Amritpal and Talwinder sparked another 8-0 run to take India up 70-63 with a little under three minutes remaining in the game.
The last three minutes saw another 10-5 scoring spree for India to seal the memorable triumph.
Amritpal had recorded his fifth double double (at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in a single game) of the tournament, while Vishesh led India’s scorers with 22. Backups Rikin and Talwinderjit too had contributed more than 10 points each.
Interestingly, power forward Amjyot Singh, with a reduced role, had six points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and a block. In a bid to avoid Taipei any easy scoring, he had also committed all of his five permitted fouls.