The Indian basketball team could not withstand a Bahrain comeback to record a fine 88-72 win in their FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers match at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Manama, Bahrain on Sunday.
Though Vishesh Bhriguvanshi, Amjyot Singh, Muin Bek Hafeez and Jagdeep Singh did well to hand India an 11-point lead in the opening quarter, the team squandered the advantage to allow Bahrain back into the game.
Leading the Baharani charge were their established names in CJ Giles, Muzamil Hamoda, Mohamed Ebrahim, Mohamed Kawaid and Maitham Isa.
The win helps second-placed Bahrain strengthen their case for a direct entry from Group D into the 2021 edition of the FIBA Asia Cup. The Indian basketball team, meanwhile, will have to ensure they make the most of the remaining matches to compete for the top two slots.
India is due to play Iraq on February 19 and Lebanon on February 21 in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers next.
Up against a team ranked 39 places below them in the FIBA rankings, the Indian basketball team began on a positive note against Bahrain with captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Amjyot Singh leading the attack.
Amjyot Singh, the power forward, was on the money with his shooting while the captain ensured that the team made the most of the ball with some incisive passing.
What helped India’s case early on was all the calls to move back to their tried and tested man-to-man marking as the team barely allowed the Bahrainis any room to have a go at the basket.
India opened with a commendable 15-3 lead in the initial few minutes that forced the Bahrani coach, James Vincent, to call for an early time out.
Though Bahrain looked a bit settled once the match resumed, there was no let-up from the Indians as they continued to drop baskets at will to extend their lead as the opening quarter panned out.
The Indian hoopsters were smart in their approach as they extracted as many as six fouls from Bahrain, forcing their coach into making changes.
The former NBA product, CJ Giles, tried his bit to cut Bahrain’s deficit. But with little to no support, the impactful centre was left to fend for himself in attacks.
However, this changed in the second quarter as Bahrain grew in confidence and took charge of the proceedings with some calm and collected basketball.
The Hammooda Brothers -- Mohammed and Muzamil -- along with Mohamed Ebrahim and Mohamed Kawaid ensured that they had their shooting game on point while Maitham Isa and Ahmed Akber brought their ‘A’ game to the fore as Bahrain cut the deficit to eight points in the opening half.
Riding on the momentum, the Bahrainis continued their dominance in the third quarter to charge ahead in the game for the first time as India endured a poor phase.
The hosts didn't hold back as they continued to mount pressure on the Indian basketball team to inflict turnovers on defence and made the most of the opportunities to score some valuable baskets.
India too played their part as wayward passing and poor shooting soon crept into the game, handing Bahrain another win in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
Lead photo: FIBA