Singh’s brilliance puts Army in the finalThe departmental outfits edge Times International 69-61 to seal the three-match Qualifier 2-1
Tribhuvan Army Club edged Times International Club 69-61 to enter the final of the Nepal Basketball League as Ayush Singh’s consistent performance once again was the key in departmental team’s sensational run into the final.
Singh had scored 24 points when he gave a man-of-the-match performance in Game 1 which the Army had won 79-65. Singh was also the top scorer for the Army team with 17 points on Monday when Times forced Game 3 with a dominating 81-57 victory and the shooting guard once again was the key netting 26 points to put Army in the final.
Unlike their imposing performance against the Army on Game 2, Times looked hapless although they remained on heels of Army throughout the game and even managed to build lead at two stages of the game. Sri Lankan star Praneet Udumalagala and skipper Sadish Pradhan combined for 35 points with the former alone dropping in a match-high 29 but Times failed to make the most of their 6ft 3in tall post players Bikram Joshi and Joshua Shumshere Leslie.
Times will now take on a Nepal Police Club in the second Qualifier to have another shot at the final berth. The best of three Eliminator, however, will be a tough nut to crack for Times as NPC have emerged as the most improved team in the tournament with both their local and international recruits finding form just at the right time.
Army led the first quarter 18-12 as Udumalagala scored nine points during the period. In a see-saw second quarter, a three-pointer from Bijay Burja put Times ahead at 30-27 with 1:28 remaining. Ajay Kushwaha did miss two free throws for Army but their skipper Robin Khatri made it a one-point game and Binod Maharjan put them 31-30 ahead converting both of his free throws.
The third quarter was all about Singh as he scored 13 out of 15 points Army scored. His two-pointer with 28 seconds remaining maintained the one-point lead for Army at 46-45. Leslie tied the game at 51-51 with 2:55 gone in the final quarter before a three from Singh made it 54-51 for Army.
Mabindra Chhetri’s two once again made it a one-point game at 54-53 but from there on Singh’s brilliance had Army’s one foot in the final. With 5:05 left on the clock, Singh sunk a two-pointer to make 56-53 and after Times lost the possession at the other side of the court, he drew a foul in a perfectly weighed in a three-pointer.
Singh converted the ensuing free throw to make it 60-53 and another turn over from Times allowed Kushwaha to score two with a drive making it 62-53 with 3:47 remaining. Khatri converted one of his two free-shots at 63-53 with 3:23 remaining. Udumalagala sunk a two and Leslie converted both of his free shots to reduced the deficit to six-points at 63-57 with 2:13 left.
A silent Ram Krishna Ghatane played his part with a two-pointer making it 65-57 with 1:53 left on the clock. Udumalagala missed one of his two free-throws and Burja’s three-pointer with 50 seconds left once again made it a four-point game at 65-61.
Times counted on intentional fouls to keep possession but Army converted four out of six free shots to seal the final spot. Kushwaha netted 13 and Khatri scored 12 points for the winning side.