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Khelo India Youth Games 2019: Tamil Nadu and Punjab share basketball honours


If the history of recent basketball successes in India are starting to sound repetitive, it's because a couple of the country's strongest hubs seem to have gotten even stronger, fortifying their defences, and now, securing their future. At the Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) 2019 in Pune - a showcase of the best young talent in different age group and gendered events from around the country - Tamil Nadu and Punjab teams qualified for three of the four finals each in the basketball tournament. And after the clinching games at the TT Hall Courts on Saturday, Tamil Nadu won both the U21 golds, while Punjab scored top-place in both the U17 events. 

Earlier this month, India's top senior basketball teams took part in the National Championship in Gujarat. In a showcase of the best talent in the country, Punjab won the men's gold medal, while Tamil Nadu took bronze. In the women's event Indian Railways (based in TN) beat the TN state team in the final. 

But if the 'Senior Nationals' were a showcase of the present of Indian basketball, the second KIYG were a nod towards its future. In an extended basketball fray to include teams of both U21 and U17 categories, it was the young talent from the same states that showcased that they are ready to stretch this North-South rivalry for many more years. 

TN and Punjab faced-off in perhaps the most anticipated of the games on Saturday, the Boys U21 final. Led by Hariram Raghupathy (19) and Arvind Kumar (18), TN turned around a 20-12 first quarter deficit with a dominating second period, and never let their foot off the gas pedal to win 70-59. Ajay Kumar had 21 for Punjab in the loss. 

TN's U21 girls repeated the boys' success against Karnataka. While it was a close 45-43 game at halftime TN were able to get into their groove in the second period to win 82-68. Pushpa Senthil Kumar, who was recently named MVP of the Senior Nationals, led all scorers with 27 for TN in the final, while her teammate Dharshani Thirunavukkarasu added 18. Bhandavya Hemmige led Karnataka with 21 and Lopamudra Thimmayam K added 17. 

Punjab had the run of the U17 basketball events. In a high-scoring boys' final, Navkaman Singh (28), Rajan (22), Avinder Singh (20) all pitched in to a 91-78 win over Rajasthan. Rajasthan trailed 55-29 at halftime and were able to make up some of their deficit thanks to efforts of Rishab Mathur (30) and Rajveer Bhati (21), but in the end, it wasn't enough. 

U17 girls was, once again, Punjab against Tamil Nadu. In a tightly-contested game, Punjab held the advantage but TN remained close on their heels throughout. It was a heroic finale for Punjab's Harsimran Dhami, who exploded for 45 points to keep her squad racing ahead towards a 76-71 win. Sathiya was TN's high scorer with 23 

The bronze medal games were also played on Saturday, and in what seemed like almost a coordinated effort, the teams from Kerala swept all four divisions. In the U21 section, high-flyer Sejin Mathew (28) and Muhammed Noushad (22) led the way to a close 79-73 win over hosts Maharashtra. Sameer Qureshi had a team-high 18 for Maharashtra in the loss. Kerala's U21 girls easily beat Uttar Pradesh 60-34 in the women's bronze-medal game, led by Jayalaxmi VJ (27). 

Kerala's U17 boys relied on the trio of Aaron Blessen (20), Niyath (17), and Jeoram George (17) to blow past Haryana (Vikrany 21) 71-59 in their bronze medal triumph. Kerala's U17 girls defeated hosts Maharashtra 79-68 to finish third. Akshaya Philip led all scorers with 34 for Kerala while Ann Mary Zachariah added 17. Maharashtra were led by Suzzane Pinto's 21 in the loss. 

Final Standings

U21 Men
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Punjab
  • 3. Kerala

U21 Women
  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Karnataka
  • 3. Kerala

U17 Men
  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Rajasthan
  • 3. Kerala

U17 Women
  • 1. Punjab
  • 2. Tamil Nadu
  • 3. Kerala

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