India quells Malaysia’s challenge
India quelled Malaysia’s challenge to secure the Division-B title at the FIBA U-16 Women’s Asian Championship here on Friday. Before a vociferous crowd at the Sree Kanteerava indoor stadium, India registered a 64-48 win to clinch promotion to Division-A. Vaishnavi Yadav (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Pushpa Senthil Kumar (12 points, 10 rebounds), the home team’s best players all week, were at the vanguard again, proving too hard for Malaysia to handle.ThrillerLater, in an edge-of-the-seat thriller in Division A, Australia defeated Japan 61-60 to triumph on its maiden appearance in the Championship. With the result, Australia also avenged the one-point loss the senior women had suffered at the Japanese hands at the same venue in July. Hong Kong, which finished bottom, was relegated to Division B.India’s head coach, Zoran Visic, was a delighted man after the win. “I am more excited than I was this summer, when our senior team won the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup (Division B),” he said.“Indian women’s basketball is really improving. This is a big moment. I want to stay here for a longer term and do my best to help. India has to be in Asia in its proper place. I respect everybody but for Hong Kong and Thailand to be in front of India…I don’t know.”India was in control of the final for the most part. There were brief moments of concern in the second and third quarters, when Malaysia rallied from 5-21 down to reduce the margin to three points at 31-34.But Sreekala Rani, who was introduced in the third quarter, chipped in with 10 points while the point guard Neha Karwa, who led the team’s delirious celebrations later, also made a mark (six points, 10 assists) as India surged ahead. Sanjana Ramesh (12 points, seven rebounds) enjoyed another good day as four Indian players scored in the double figures yet again.“We were under pressure a little bit,” Visic admitted. “With our mistakes we brought Malaysia to life. We relaxed a little bit. But this is youth. At half-time, I said we should think it’s 0-0. We put in a lot of energy and Malaysia had problems.”The BFI President, K. Govindaraj, announced a cash prize of ₹20 lakh for the Indian team.The results: Division A: Final: Australia 61 (Isabel Palmer 14, Georgia Amoore 10, Agnes Emma-Nnopu 10) bt Japan 60 (Aika Hirashita 15, Miku Takahashi 13, Maika Mura 10). Third-place playoff: China 60 bt New Zealand 43.Division B: Final: India 64 (Vaishnavi Yadav 14, Sanjana Ramesh 12, Pushpa Senthil Kumar 12, Sreekala Rani 10) bt Malaysia 48 (Zi Wei Wong 14, Tricia Ng 10).Third-place playoff: Iran 47 lost to Kazakhstan 61.