Indian girls soar to top division

Indian players celebrate after emerging winners in Division B of the FIBA U-18 Women Asian basketball championship. STANDING (from left) Ishwarya Janardhan, Harshitha Bopaiah, Pushpa Senthil Kumar, Srikala Rani, Ann Marry Zachariah and Anu Maria. SITTING:

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened -- a dominant Indian side staying unbeaten to earn their place among the continent’s best.

On Saturday, India crushed Kazakhstan 68-45 in the Division B final of the FIBA under-18 Women’s Asian championship at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here, earning the right to play in the top division in the next edition.

This is the third Indian team that has earned promotion to Division A under Serbian coach Zoran Visic. “It is nice to see all three teams getting promoted to Division A,” said Visic, who has previously guided the under-16 and the senior women’s team to the top tier of Asian basketball.

“These results prove India have good, talented players for the future. It will be good to play against teams like Australia, Japan etc,” he added.

Karnataka’s Harshitha Bopaiah was crucial to the side’s success. In the final, the 18-year-old sparkled with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds. “She was very good, on both the rebounds as well as scoring points for us. Yesterday also, she was on a double-double, almost triple-double,” Visic said.

After a rather slow start, India grew into the game and exhibited a power- packed performance. The hosts dominated the paint and never gave a moment’s respite to the Kazakhs, who were left chasing shadows for the most part. Harshitha, accurate from free throws, alone scored eight points as India ended the first quarter leading 16-9.

The second quarter saw India go on an 11-point scoring spree to extend their gap to 16 points (32-16). Skipper Pushpa Senthil Kumar (14 points and eight rebounds) was heavily involved, almost attacking the basket at will, with her darting runs to put India in command at half-time. Kazakhstan were totally outplayed in the next quarter as India stretched the gap to 28 points.

In the early minutes of the last period, Pushpa hurt her ankle after falling awkwardly while attempting to collect a defensive rebound. The center had to be carried out of the court by the support staff. The injury, though, didn’t seem serious as she returned to floor soon after to see her team emerge victorious.

Pushpa finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds. 

Syria settled for the third place after comfortably ousting Hong Kong 75-68 in the other Division B encounter.

Later, China’s dominance over Asia continued as they defeated rivals Japan 89-76 in the Division A final that was briefly interrupted due to a power outage.

With a little more than six minutes left in the fourth quarter and China leading 73-60, the game came to a sudden halt after a power failure. The match, delayed for almost 30 minutes, finally resumed when the power was restored. The break, however, did little to change the outcome as China stayed on top to secure their fifth-straight title.

In the third-place playoff, Australia powered to a 75-58 win over Korea. Miela Goodchild, who leads the overall points tally, was again at the top of her game, scoring 21 points. Nnena Agnes Emma-Nnopu helped with 17. For Korea, Jihyun Park and Haeran Lee each scored 17 points and Sohee Lee added 14.

Meanwhile, Malaysia were relegated to Division B following their last-place finish in the standings.

Results: Division A: Final: China: 89 (Yuan Li 28, Zhuo Ya Fang 17, Chen Mingling 13) bt Japan: 76 (Chinatsu Umeki 20, Layla Takehara 18, Nanaka Todo 14, Norika Konno 11).  

Third place: Australia: 75 (Miela Goodchild 21, Nnenna Agnes Emma-Nnopu 17, Jazmin Shelley 10) bt Korea: 58 (Jihyun Park 17, Sohee Lee 14, Haeran Lee 17).

Division B: Final: India: 68 (Harshitha KB 20, Pushpa Senthil Kumar 14, Srishti Suren 10) bt Kazakhstan: 45 (Inna Kulikova 10).

Third place: Syria: 75 (Noura Bshara 29, Anna Aghnanian 18, Stefany Atrash 10) bt Hong Kong: 68 (Wing Nga Poon 22, Wing Yan Chan 15, Tan Fung 10).

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Indian girls soar to top division

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