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India clinch Division B crown in front of sellout home crowd
BENGALURU (FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017) - It was a truly historic night for India as they survived a thriller of a Final against Kazakhstan, 75-73, in front of a sellout Kanteerava Indoor stadium.
It was a nip-and-tuck affair from the onset, with both the Kazakhs and the Indians determined to get the lone promotion ticket to Division A. Leads exchanged a handful of times in the first period before Kazakhstan hit their stride in the second quarter, outscoring India, 20-15, to take an 8-point lead to the halftime break.
Kazakhstan's lead ballooned to as big as 14 points in the third period, but coach Zoran Visic's wards did not give up. Little by little, they chipped at the deficit till they finally retook the advantage thanks to a Jeena Skaria jumper with 5:36 left, 61-60. Once again, the two squads traded blows after until Kazakhstan's Oxana Ossipenko seemingly gave her side the lead for good, 71-66, at the 1:36 mark.
Young forward Shireen Limaye, however, rose to the occasion and took charge for the home team, teaming up with Skaria to tie the count, 71-all, with under a minute to go. Kazakhstan had a golden chance to regain the upper-hand a few seconds later, but two misses from the stripe by Zalina Kurazova stifled their momentum. That proved costly for the Central Asia quintet as Limaye once again scored to give India a 73-71 edge under 30 ticks left.
It setup a wicked windup to the Final as Ossipenko came through for Kazakhstan tying the game up, 73-all, with 21 seconds left. India, however, had one final ace up their sleeve. Once again, they went to Limay, who was the player of the moment, sinking the game-winning, promotion-clinching basket with just 5 seconds left on the clock for the finall tally.
Skaria was ultra-efficient for the victors here, scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 field goal shooting, while Limaye added 17 points on top of 10 rebounds and 6 assists. India return to Division A, and what makes it sweeter is they did it in style and at home in front of their adoring fans.
As for Kazakhstan, they squandered more than a few golden opportunities to put this game away. Costly mistakes in crunch time will haunt their trip back home, and they are left with pondering on what could have been. Center Nadezhda Kondrakova exploded for 30 points for the Kazakhs, but it proved to be not enough to get the win. Kurazova added 17 points in support, shooting 7-of-8 from the free-throw stripe before her two costly misses in the final minute.