In a first, Indian U-16 cagers make it to last-8 in Asian Championship

NAGPUR: Indian cagers scripted history in Qatar on Thursday. For the first time in the Fiba U-16 Asian Basketball Championship history, the Indian boys team made it to the quarterfinals of the continental event. India’s best finish in the Asian tourney was the 10th position, which they achieved way back in 2009, when the event was first played 13 years ago.

In the following event in 2011, India posted back-to-back victories in the league phase but failed to clear the top eight hurdle and finished 12th. In the qualifying game for a spot in the quarterfinal, world no. 50 India outplayed lower ranked Indonesia 97-53 to confirm their berth among the best eight in Asia at Doha, Qatar, on Thursday.

In form Indian trio of Lokendra Singh, Jaideep Rathore and Kushal Singh scored baskets at will and shared as many as 83 points among them. While Lokendra scored a game-high 30 points, Jaideep Rathore netted 27 and Kushal Singh added 26 points for the winners.

Both Lokendra and Kushal recorded a double double when they pulled 17 and 10 rebounds respectively. Playing as point guard, Harsh Dagar scored 11 points and played a pivotal role of clearing the ball for nine assists as he also snatched nine rebounds. While India took time to settle into the groove, they outplayed Indonesia as the game progressed.

After taking a handy 14-point (43-29) lead at the halfway mark of their most important clash, India scored 15 unanswered points after the change of ends to stretch the advantage further to 58-29. Thereafter, it was a cakewalk for the boys donning white outfits as after dominating the third quarter 27-8, India outclassed Indonesia 27-16 in the last quarter to register a facile 44-point win.

While India out-rebounded Indonesia 53-34, they were better in assists at 30-16 and recorded more steals 23-8. Of the handy 23 steals that India made, they were able to score as many as 31 fast break points. In their first-ever quarterfinal, India will square up against two-time bronze medallist and 32nd ranked Japan on Friday.

RESULT: India (Lokendra Singh 30, Jaideep Rathore 27, Kushal Singh 26, Harsh Dagar 11) bt Indonesia (Cliffton Wijaya 1) 97-53 (20-18, 23-11, 27-8, 27-16)