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India clinch SABA title, qualify for FIBA Asia Championship

BENGALURU (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - India stormed to the South Asian Basketball Association (SABA) Championship title over the weekend by winning all five of their games.

Taking on Sri Lanka in the battle for the crown for the fourth edition of the event, the Indians rolled to a 93-44 triumph to clinch a spot in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship that will be held in Changsha, China, later this year.

Sri Lanka (4-1) finished second, Nepal (2-3) third, Bangladesh (2-3) fourth, Maldives (2-3) fifth and Bhutan (0-5) sixth in the final standings.

The draw for the FIBA Asia Championship was held recently and the winners of the SABA Championship are to play in Group A.

Therefore, India will square off against Iran, Japan and Malaysia in the opening round.

In their championship victory, India had four players hit double digits with Tamil Nadu center Aravind Annadurai pouring in a game-high 22 points.

India were convincing winners in their other games.

They defeated Bangladesh (122-39), Nepal (90-37), Maldives (128-48) and Bhutan (119-52). 

The Indians are already thinking about the FIBA Asia Championship, which doesn't tip off until 23 September in Changsha and runs until 3 October.

"We are confident of doing better at the FIBA Asia level this time, as now other teams fear us," small forward Prasanna Venkatesh said.

India were without several frontline players and still managed to cruise to the title, with five players making their senior team bows.

For Sri Lanka in the championship game, 22-year-old Praneeth Udumalagala and Thimothi Thineshkanth fought hard but India still raced into a 46-26 lead at half-time.

India put the result beyond doubt after the interval, going on a 9-0 run to start the third quarter.

"I can’t deny that I am disappointed," Sri Lanka coach Panduka Ranasinghe said.

"But credit to what [India head coach] Prasad has managed to do with his team."