The FIBA 3×3 U23 Nations League concluded in Colombo, Sri Lanka – Hungary was decorated as the women`s champions while Slovenia was crowned as the men`s champion.
Sri Lanka Women’s team participated in all five stops and was ranked as follows; out of the eight countries that participated Sri Lanka was ranked 5th in the first stop, with forty – five points Sri Lanka was ranked 6th in fourth and the third stop. Sri Lanka, improving their performance, was ranked 3rd in the fourth stop and went on to be ranked 04th in the fifth and the final stop.
Sri Lanka men`s team too participated in all five stops and was ranked as follows; with fifty points Sri Lanka was ranked 5th in the first stop. From the second stop to the fifth Sri Lanka was ranked 6th out of the eight countries who participated in the league.
Sri Lanka`s semi-final scare continued as both the women’s and the men’s team ended their run in the stop five in the semi-final stage.
Sri Lanka women`s team played Hungary in the respective semi-final which ended putting Hungary in the final, 21-03. Hungary dominated proceedings since the first check as they went on to lead the game six-zero at a stage. Sri Lanka battling with the hot weather lacked energy in the court to hit the gaps and transfer themselves from offense to defence, vice-versa against a pace packed attack from the Hungarians. Natasha Perera who had a satisfactory outing in the stop 04, lacked form coming into the fifth stop. Shots not being converted into points Sri Lanka was stuck at the receiving end.
Sri Lanka men`s team who went on to play Netherland in the semi-final of the fifth stop. The final score line ended 21-15 pushing the Dutch men for the final. Sri Lanka stepped into the game in good momentum after beating Hungary in the group-stage.
Sri Lanka did square the game six all with seven minutes remaining on the clock. Yet, Netherland sticking onto their game plan set a strong foothold in their passing and positioning which outsmarted Sri Lanka. It was the team combination, quick little inside passes and following up the shot with the rebound that made the difference between the two teams. Sri Lanka suffered from over-loading one side while Dutch made sure that floor was evenly spread out to hit the gaps.
Even though Sri Lanka did bid adieu in the semi-final, the overall performance from both the men`s and women`s team is worth an applause. Sri Lanka being a country, still developing the sport and absorbing it into the veins, took a giant leap forward. The heart Sri Lankan players showed in matching up-against the European giants was a treat to watch. It was a tough ask for the lads and lasses as sometimes they were outsmarted in both physical and height advantage – yet the players did penetrate, tried to block off shots, fought for the rebound and defended territory.
The experience is important, players will gain it and develop themselves. Whilst the players do so, parallel the administrators too should play the role. Fix the 3×3 court, build a national pool, increase practices, introduce the players to a strength and conditioning program and back their talent. If it happens a medal in 2020 Olympics isn`t far from reach.