Winning start by Indian hoopsters

Bengaluru, July 3 (IANS) Hosts India were off to a flying start in the fourth South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship which began here on Friday as they drubbed Nepal 90-37 and Bangladesh 122-39 to kick-start their bid to qualify for the Asian Championship later this year.

It was a virtual stroll for India, twice winners of this tournament. Though without their key starters Amritpal Singh, Amjyot Singh (both playing in Japan), and veterans Yadwinder Singh and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, the hosts found their heroes in forwards Aravind Annadurai (Tamil Nadu), Aravind (Karnataka), and youngster Gurvinder Singh Gill.

Both Bangladesh and Nepal were hopelessly outclassed by the confident Indian team that is the favourite to win this SABA qualifying tournament, and the manner in which they began their campaign, the hosts are expected to waltz through the league unbeaten.

If anything, it was a daunting task for Nepal whose preparations suffered a setback when their main training venue Dasarath Indoor Stadium in Kathmandu was damaged in the devastating earthquake.

India, with far better drilled players than their opponents, led from start to finish, widening the lead each quarter. Their play was marked by man-to-man defence and patient ball movement, besides creating multiple scoring opportunities. The team effort was underlined by the fact that five players scored in double digits.

Bangladesh, who trumped Maldives 76-65 earlier in the day, found the going difficult against India, who stamped their authority by taking the first quarter 29-4 with the visitors unable to breach the tight rival defence as the hosts ended the first half with a healthy 59-12 advantage.

On resumption, India continued to dominate and scored at will. Though the pace of the match slowed down a bit as both were playing their second game of the day, India’s progress remained untroubled as they indulged in three-pointers and a couple of dunks too before cruising to their second win.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh beat a fast charging Maldives side 76-65 after leading 39-20 at half-time, while Sri Lanka, reckoned to be India’s main challengers, routed Bhutan 100-57.

The tournament winner will qualify for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship to be held in Hunan, China, from September 23 to October 3.

The results (League):

India 122 (A Aravind 19, Pratham Singh 15) bt Bangladesh 39 (Mithun Sarkam 12, Mhd Aziz 11). Ht: 59-12.

India 90 (Narender Grewal 17, A Aravind 13, Prasanna Venkatesh 13) bt Nepal 37 (Yukta Ram Bhakta Mathema 10). HT: 50-20.

Bangladesh 76 (Mithun Sarkan 24, Mithun Kumar Biswas 24) bt 65 Maldives (Mohamed Zilaal 26). Half-time: 39-20.

Sri Lanka 100 (Praneeth Udumalagala 28, Thimothi Thineshkanth 17) bt Bhutan 57 (Chimi Wangchuk 12, Yarab Singye 10). Ht: 49-27.

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