Only a pair of points made all the difference between the two nations on Saturday night.
In a remarkable turnaround, India came up a narrow victory to trump a difficult Palestine side to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
In what could be described as a clutch effort, Sahaij Sekhon, Amritpal Singh and Amjyot Singh Gill inspired the Young Cagers to defeat Palestine 79-77 on Saturday night.
The first quarter was both similar as well as different from the game against Saudi Arabia on Friday. Palestine took a comfortable 12-point lead, ending the quarter 25-13.
Palestine rode on their superior 3-point shooting with the Indians failing to muster anything from beyond the arc.
Kyndal Dykes was a man on a mission and tore through the lax Indian perimeter defense. However, India improved on their 2-point shooting as well as rebounding with respect to the encounter against Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Young Cagers suffered while handling the ball and found it difficult on both offense and defense beyond the arc.
Amritpal Singh was their lone fighter during these difficult moments for India against Palestine, utilizing his size to big effect and scoring whenever India needed. His consistency paved the way for India’s comeback in the fourth quarter and after a forgettable show against Saudi Arabia, Amritpal Singh redeemed himself with his double-double performance. The Indian no.10 scored 30 points and grabbed 12 brilliant rebounds to register a superior performance under the board.
It was close to the end of the second quarter when India finally netted a shot from beyond the arc. Amjyot Singh Gill also started to get in on the act slowly as they slowly began to chip away at the early lead possessed by the West Asian side.
Palestine’s focal point was Kyndal Dykes, who achieved near triple double numbers with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Trailing by 10 points in the second half, India intensified the defense on the perimeter while finding baskets with regularity inside the paint. Amjyot finished the game with 23 points, grabbing 10 boards as well. The support from outside was provided by Joginder Singh, who recovered from an early 3-point slump to drain four shots from beyond the arc to finish at a 40% clip for the night.
The Palestinians let just one point slip from their advantage in the third quarter, but India unleashed themselves in the fourth quarter.
Two Stars for India
They began to hunt down rebounds with a hunger that was missing against Saudi Arabia and tightened their rotations, especially when Dykes became involved.
Amjyot came up big during this stretch as he drained two crucial three-pointers after going scoreless from beyond the arc in the three periods before.
Once India regained the lead, the contest looked all but over. Sekhon’s last-minute breakaway push accentuated the scoreline but Palestine were not willing to give up.
Dykes kept at it and brought his team within two. Amjyot missed his two free throws to set up a tense finish but the opposition failed to convert a driving layup in the final moments.
It was an improved showing from India who rebounded with an increased push in the contest. They also enhanced their inside-the-arc performance, which allowed the free-flowing game to establish itself.