The Indian men's national basketball team overcame their loss against Saudi Arabia with an inspirational comeback victory against Palestine in the Asia Cup Qualifiers held at Jeddah. A 4th quarter blitzkrieg helped the Indian Cagers overcome a dominant performance over three quarters by the Palestinians as they won 79-77.
The Cagers got off to a rocky start just like they did in the game against Saudi Arabia as they struggled to find a rhythm and were slow in transition. Palestine's Kyndall Dykes caused problems for the Indians as he controlled the tempo from the tip and was quick on the break, finding open teammates and hitting big-time shots on the way to a dominant 32-point night.
The Indians did not let a rough first half deter them as they chipped away at the lead despite a barrage of threes from Palestine along with savvy mid-range jumpers from the likes of Dykes and Sani Sakakini.
Their transition defence, along with a couple of careless turnovers, caused the Cagers dearly as they trailed the Palestinians by 46-36 at the end of the second quarter. The usually sharp 3-point shooting from the Indian team seemed nowhere to be found as they missed open shots despite having the time and space.
The introduction of Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon turned the game around as he hounded Dykes and the other Palestinian Ball handlers, causing turnovers and helping his team pick up their defensive intensity.
Stalwarts such as Amjyot Singh and centre Amritpal Singh took over on the offensive end and put pressure on a hapless Palestinian defence that had no answers for their interior dominance.
Amritpal Singh, the former Sydney Kings player, dominated with brilliant post play as he played bully ball with the smaller Palestinian defenders. The 6'11' centre made perfect use of his size as he made the right reads and aggressively posted up defenders while calling for the ball from his teammates.
His dominant interior performance freed up space for shooters such as Joginder Singh and Sekhon to hit open shots. The Punjabi star finished the game with a crucial 30 points to go along with 12 rebounds, a block and a steal. Joginder Singh came clutch as he hit a couple of big-time shots while shooting 40% from the 3-point line.
The return of former G-League player Amjyot Singh was a massive help as he pushed the pace and turned on the jets in transition to get easy layups while also helping his team with his defensive effort. Amjyot Singh's experience proved to be vital for the Cagers as he ran riot in the second half with a series of clutch jumpers and layups, including a couple of three-point shots that helped his team increase their lead.
The former Oklahoma City Blues star showed us why he was a big-time player as he helped his team rally in the fourth quarter to come up with the win. He asserted himself in the game, and it reflected on the stat sheet as he ended the game with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists to go along with a block and a steal.
The captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi led the team from the front and kept them calm despite the Palestinians dominant first half as he helped them on to an even keel while chipping away at the lead before a dominant fourth quarter where they ran riot. Apart from his vocal leadership, his clever ball-handling skills helped him find open teammates as he ended the game with 7 crucial assists.
The Indian Cagers got their job done and now will hope that Saudi Arabia beat Palestine so that they could qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup. Veselin Matic's men will have a good chance against some of the best in Asia.
The future of Indian Basketball seems bright despite a lack of a professional 5-aside league. A mixture of talented young stars such as Princepal Singh, Pranav Prince, Muin Bek Hafeez and Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon, along with veterans like Amjyot Singh, Amritpal Singh, Aravind Annadurai, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Satnam Singh, looks like a perfect recipe for success.