The Indian basketball team pulled off an 81-78 win over Iraq to confirm its place in the Final Qualifying Tournament of the FIBA Asia Cup.
Indian basketball team captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi was calm as he sank a buzzer-beater just a few metres from the halfway line to help his side to an 81-78 win over Iraq in a crucial Group D match of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers on Saturday.
The win helped India cement their third place in the group, thereby pushing them into the Final Qualifying Tournament where they will be up against the fellow third-placed teams from the other five groups of the qualifying competition.
“It was a wonderful three-pointer of my life and I am thankful to god that I made this shot,” Vishesh said.
In a seesaw battle at the Khalifa Sports City in Bahrain, the Indian hoopsters kept their nerves intact despite Iraq’s constant pressure with some top-draw basketball. The two teams were separated by just a point heading into the final quarter.
The last time the two teams met in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, the Indian basketball team were comfortable winners with a 19-point difference. But on Saturday, the Iraqis were determined not to repeat their mistakes and started brightly.
Karrar Hamzah and Kevin Galloway led the attack with purpose as the two showcased their shooting skills from the arch to get Iraq off to a bright start in the opening few minutes.
The Indian cagers lacked cohesiveness in their game with the trio of Amjyot Singh Gill, Aravind Annadurai and Vishesh Bhriguvanshi struggling to get their shooting on point.
Kevin Galloway, the former NBA G-League player, was at his best, dropping three-pointers at will, as Iraq raced to a nine-point lead in no time.
Muin Bek Hafeez was the top scorer for India with 24 points. Photo: FIBA Media
The Indians, however, regrouped well after a time-out to cut the deficit and restrict the Iraqi flow with some purposeful defending.
Soon, India found their shooting range with Amjyot Singh Gill bringing his trademark drops from the arch to the fore while the 24-year-old Muin Bek Hafeez showed why he’s rated highly by the Indian basketball community with some clutch play in the opponent’s half for his 18 points in the opening half.
Though head coach Veselin Matic withdrew his main guns in the second quarter, India ensured that they kept the pressure on Iraq with the experienced Joginder Singh calling shots with some smart ball play.
India headed into the second half with a nine-point lead but it was never enough against a relentless Iraqi unit that kept the pressure up and did well to cut the deficit as the match progressed.
Ihab Al-Zuhairi and Hassan Abdullah were the stars for Iraq in the second half, as the duo tested the Indian defence with their swift movements and ball control.
But in the end, it came down to the final shot of the match, which the Indian skipper scored to hand his side the win.
The Indian basketball team will take on Lebanon in their final group game on Monday while Iraq will face hosts Bahrain.