NAGPUR: Indian cagers finished a creditable fifth to give a perfect end to their superlative campaign in the Fiba U-16 Asian Championship in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.
India’s previous best Asian meet performance was the 10th position in the inaugural edition of 2009.
Despite missing their maiden World Cup berth after a close seven-point loss to Japan in the quarterfinal, the 50th ranked Indian team played their classification games with a positive mindset. They came up with a surprise for world no. 17 Iran and 2015 champions Korea in contrasting fashions.
In their first classification game for the 5-8 position, India rallied splendidly to shock Iran 83-78 in Over Time after both the teams scored 70 points in regulation. Playing well within themselves, the Indian outfit took time to settle into their groove and were down by as many as 20 points (20-40) at the halfway break.
The change of ends turned the things in India’s favour as they not only tightened their defensive screws, but the boys in blue scored 13 unanswered points to dominate the third quarter 31-13 and bring the lead down to 51-53.
After winning the neck-and-neck last period 19-17, India forced Iran to play five-minute extra time. Shooting guard Harsh Dagar made the most assists from Lokendra Singh as India outclassed Iran 13-8 in the over-time to post one of their biggest victories ever. For the winners, Harsh scored a team-high 25 points, Kushal Singh contributed 19 as Lokendra recorded a double double with 15 points and 18 rebounds.
A day after a thrilling win over Iran, the Indian cagers were high on confidence and surprised world no. 32 and three-time medallists Korea by 10 points (90-80) to finish fifth in Asia – their best finish in the tournament’s 13-year history.
In their last outing, India took a handy lead early on by winning the first quarter 30-19. They maintained the advantage and outplayed the lanky Korean boys with ease.
After the heroics of Harsh against Iran, it was time for Lokendra to steal the show and the 6-foot-4 shooting guard fired a game-high 29 points. Jaideep Rathore (20), Harsh (19) and Kushal Singh (18) played pivotal roles as India finished the Asian Championship on a high.

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