24 March 2016| 6: 30 PM: The second day at the JNU Annual Basketball Competition saw a major disruption lead by the Stallions. The two teams to qualify for the finals, the Stallions with the second highest points on the score boards and JNU Bulls who defeated the Sainians in the last league match on Friday, fought it out in a neck-to-neck, fast-paced game which also saw the Bulls stalwart player Manish with a bleeding nose injury. Earlier JNU Bulls stomped Sainians 52-27, in what can now be regarded as the Bulls’s trademark style of playing- an all-and-all offensive game that completely chokes your opponent.
The Sainians appeared a little jittery, and it was understood, the Bulls were leading the socreboards in the league stage. The match started at around 6:30 PM, with the Bulls taking control of the game early on, they were as seen earlier quick in generating rebounds, and swift in blocking and stealing passes.
Manish played his usual flamboyant game controlling the board, and scoring 16 points for the team. On the other hand, Vikas added 18 points to the team tally. Sainians could cover the difference after the first quarter, when the scores were tilted against them, 4-11. The second quarter only saw the margin increasing with 8-28, and it continued like that till the whistle for the fourth quarter blew off. Akshay (2) scored the most for the Sainians adding some 13 points.
Resting on the win from the previous match, either the Bulls weighed the Stallions too less, or the exhaustion from the previous matches finally started to take its toll on the team. The Bulls had played the highest number of matches in the tournament, 3 five-on-five and 3 three-on-three. The spark was somehow missing.
The first quarter saw the Stallions roping in 12 points, the Bulls magic didn’t seem to be working much, their score restricted to 2 points. Rakesh (9) and Pratap (13) making use of the fouls awarded to them, as much as using the opportunities provided by the Bulls to score.
Speaking to The Informer later, Shubham explained that they had a clear strategy against the Bulls, a team with considerably more experienced players – ‘they had one weakness, they had only one guy with the advantage of height, and in basketball there is this saying, one who controls the board, controls the game…Manish was the only guy in the team who takes more of the rebounds, when the ball doesn’t go, the other players can’t shoot.’ Indeed, Manish succumbed to an injury in the second quarter and the game had to be stopped for a few minutes, though he recovered to step on the court again. Shadowing Manish and restricting him played in the favour of Stallions.
‘I was suppose to keep him out of that zone…my focus was on the defense…while Rakesh, Pratap and JuHun were initiating the offense,’ added Shubham. There was plenty of man-to-man marking happening between jersey number 4 from the Bulls and 23 from the Stallions.
And right when things were looking bad for the Bulls, they made a comeback. While, the first quarter saw them trailing by a considerable margin 2-12. In the second quarter despite Mannish’s injury they got back in the game, the scoreboards displaying 11-12. In, the third quarter they almost closed the gap with 12-8.
However, the Bulls were dragged down as much as their inability to find space, restricted as they were by the Stallions in the court; as much as due to the number of fouls committed which led to the other team being awarded plenty of free throws.
Further, in the final quarter when the scores were 32-36 in the favor of Stallions, and there was a glimmer of hope for the Bulls; Saksham who posed a threat for the opposition, had to leave the court for exceeding the number of fouls allowed in the game.
Vikas remained undaunted and shot whenever he got an opportunity. Kulwinder was again not given enough space to move or play his best by the opposition. Even though the Bulls lost, it was a fight to the end.
Meanwhile, Rakesh and Pratap continued to assail the Bulls. Rakesh amassed 20 and Pratap 11 points for the Stallions. JuHun was crucial in not only contesting shots, in screening, assisting and stealing passes but also in taking shots from the sides. And so was Francis, who was mostly employed in getting clearances and driving for the basket.
The Stallions had played 3 five-on-five and 1 three-on-three matches in the leagues, out of which they lost just 1 five-on-five match. Teammate Yogesh was rested in the finals. Though nobody could have discounted the might of the team, in the finals they won through their intelligent strategy and team-sync, along with some brilliant performances by Pratap and Rakesh.
Team A (JNU Bulls) Team B (Sainians)
Manish – 16 Nanaji – 2
Kulwinder – 9 Sonu – 4
Saksham – 7 Ritesh – 2
Vikas – 18 Akshay – 13
Gopal – 2 Shivhari – 6
Result : Team A won 52-27
Team A (JNU Bulls) Team B
Manish – 7 Shubham – 4
Kulwinder – 5 Rakesh – 20
Saksham – 8 Pratap – 11
Vikas -10 Francis – 2
Gopal – 2 Ryn JuHun – 5
Result : Team B won 41-32
The Informer correspondent. With inputs from Manish Choudhury and Shubham Ankit Kujur.
Pictures are by Sunaina Dular.