NAGPUR: When it mattered the most, India’s best two guards Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Amjyot Singh were always on duty. The deadly duo turned the tide for India in the final seconds of their must-win game against Iraq in the third window of men’s qualifiers for the FIBA Asia Cup basketball championship in Bahrain on Saturday.
While Amjyot made a crucial steal with two seconds left for the hooter, skipper Vishesh fired a buzzer-beating three pointer to guide India past Iraq by three points (81-78) at the Khalifa Sport City arena in Manama.
With this crucial win, India secured the third position in Group D and earned a berth in the final qualifying tournament for FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
Two months after they failed to halt Bahrain’s shooting spree, India put up a fine display of grit and character and tried many defensive moves to keep Iraq at bay for most part of their crucial outing.
Iraq looked like they would dictate the tempo early on, leading 25-24, after the first period, but India tightened their defensive screws in the later part of the second quarter to take a handy nine-point lead at the breather.
The change of ends, however, turned the things in Iraq’s favour as they brought the lead down to just one point by dominating the third period 21-13. While India fought their way back in the final quarter — leading by as many as seven points with three minutes remaining, a handful of errors in the dying stage brought both the teams at par 78-78 with 40 seconds remaining.
In the final moment of the clash, India defended well with Amjyot making a crucial steal while clearing the ball for Vishesh who scored a running jump-shot for a buzzer-beating three pointer to help his team record a thrilling 81-78 win.
“It was a wonderful three-pointer of my life and I am thankful to god that I made this shot,”Vishesh said on the buzzer-beater.
The skipper added, “In the crucial minutes of the game we made 2-3 mistakes and were looking like under pressure but we were not. We came back and did some good defence to steal the ball and make the basket for this crucial win.”
Iraq’s size though gave India a lot of trouble, as they won the battle of the boards, 40-26. India’s pressure defense with timely conversion forced Iraq to commit many errors. India won the battle of steals and assists 10-9 and 22-17 respectively.
For India, Muin Bek Hafeez (22), Amjyot (13), Aravind Annadurai (12), Vishesh (11) and Joginder Singh (9) did the bulk of scoring as the game-high 24-point effort from Iraq’s Kevin Galloway went in vain.
On Monday, India will face Lebanon.
RESULT: India (Muin Bek Hafeez 22, Amjyot Singh 13, Aravind Annadurai 12, Vishesh Briguvanshi 11, Joginder Singh 9) bt Iraq (Kevin Galloway 24, Ihab Al-Zuhairi 16) 81-78 (24-25, 23-13, 13-21, 21-19).