The Young Cagers defeated Palestine 79-77 in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Saturday night.
India emerged victorious 79-77 in a thrilling encounter against Palestine to keep their Asia Cup hopes alive on Saturday night. Palestine began the game brightly as they jumped out to a 25-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kyndall Dykes busted out of the gates on fire by going for dunks and knocking down threes.
The game continued to be in Palestine’s favour over the next two quarters, but India kept within striking distance. The Indian team then mounted their comeback rally, with a 13-2 run in the middle of the final quarter, sparked by Joginder Singh’s sharpshooting.
The scoreboard read 79-77 in favour of India with the clock ticking down in the basketball game. Palestine mounted the final attack of the game with their superstar Sani Sakakini. However, he failed to convert his attempt which would have tied the game with the last throw of the dice.
Following the game, Indian coach Veselin Matic spoke about the match in the post-match press conference.
Matic optimistic about the future
“Today was the second set of a tennis match. We are playing a three-set; we will see tomorrow who will succeed (Palestine Vs Saudi Arabia). I really congratulate all my players. It is very hard to come back in a game. Players are consistently following what we say, our instructions. They are trying and in the end, we succeeded with a lot of luck. Sometimes in basketball, we have to fight and then we have this gift,” Matic began.
The Serbian also spoke about his vision of the national team in the coming years. “My contract is till 2024. I enjoy coaching in India, we are in a process. We have to make different basketball in India and that is something for me is a challenge,” he said.
“I tried with Syria, I succeed. With Iran, I succeed. I tried with Lebanon also. This is a new project for me,” he remarked.
“Without COVID, we will be in the championship matches easily. We know what we want. We have lots of talent; half of them are young players, that is what you saw today. We have a lot of good players that can in the future be the factory of Asian basketball,” Veselin Matic opined.
India basketball star Amritpal Singh accompanied Matic to the press conference and he felt that the Serbian tactician believed in his squad against Palestine on Saturday.
“Yesterday, we played very bad and lost. But today, the coach believed in us. It was a do-or-die game for us. So, everyone played together and played hard, so we won,” said Indian center Amritpal Singh.
Filipovic proud of his troops
Palestine boss Marko Filipovic also revealed his thoughts on the match and spoke about his pride in the team regardless of the result.
“First of all, congrats to team India, they won. They were better. We had a problem. We played first quarter A-grade, we controlled the game till the end. During the game, we had problems with how to stop no.10,” he began.
“Many of our players made fouls; we have just two big guys. In the end, we dropped out and we couldn’t come back. We tried to put more pressure and in the end, we succeed, but we missed the last shot. I am happy. I am proud of my guys because we had many problems. Of course, we will try to analyze this game and we will try to beat Saudi Arabia tomorrow,” he stated.
Palestine’s star forward Sani Sakakini was also present along with his coach at the press conference. The 33-year-old spoke about the match and the difficulties the team had prior to arriving in Jeddah.
“We controlled the game until the fourth quarter. Unluckily, we dropped down in the end. We made small mistakes. We got a lot of problems, we know ourselves before we even came here. Had just a small camp in Turkey and then you know, the situation about COVID and the guys cannot join the team. Three important guys couldn’t be with us. They are actually starters,” Sakakini quipped.
The Indians will now have to wait for the result of Saturday’s game between Palestine and Saudi Arabia to see how their fate turns out. The last time they had failed to qualify for the continental competition was in 1999 and the Young Cagers will hope to make their 10th consecutive appearance in the Asia Cup.