The much anticipated final of the Herbert Cup 2017 was played between Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Army. The tense finale ended up in favour of the airmen when the scoreboard read 78-72.
Seven teams battled out for three days in this tournament. Both Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Army were unbeaten coming into this all important final. Even though the host team Batticaloa was not able to qualify for the final stages of the match, the fans did not miss out on cheering for the two teams in the final, as the stadium was packed all set to witness a nail biting finale.
It was the soldiers who ticked the scoreboard first. Both teams failed to adapt into their normal gameplay at the start as the pressure of the final overtook the mental stability. Sri Lanka Army led the game 7-2 inside the first five minutes. Airmen banking on their experience of being in tense finals bounced back into the game to lead the first quarter 22-15.
Both teams played a fast paced game in the second quarter and kept on scoring. Yet, the early lead helped the airmen to be in a comfortable position at the end of the first half. Sri Lanka Air Force scored twenty points in the second quarter while Sri Lanka Army replied with twenty-one points. The half time scores read 42-36.
Sri Lanka Air Force led the game by nine points at the end of the third quarter as Indika Mahesh went onto add six quick points for the airmen. From a nine-point lead Sri Lanka Air Force went on to lead the game by thirteen points into the final quarter.
Sri Lanka Army coming from behind ambushed the airmen and made the road to victory a tough one. With a minute and half remaining on the clock the two points from the Sri Lanka Army player Nichula Liyanage squared the game 72 all. Osanda Umayanga who was in sublime form throughout the tournament for the airmen replied with another two points to swap back the lead.
Even though Sri Lanka Army were able to even the scoreboard unforced errors took the game away from the soldiers during the last minute. Sri Lanka Army did have a chance for a three-pointer with 56 seconds remaining but unfortunately, it did not swish the nets.
Sri Lanka Air Force marched gallantly as they halted the scoreboard from ticking when it read 78-72 and won the game at full time.
Susil Udukumubura, Coach of Sri Lanka Air Force speaking to ThePapare.com said, “We did not have a lot of time to practice to the tournament. So I believe the unity of the team helped us to win this championship more than anything else. Sri Lanka Army did come with a good game but happy about the fact that we were able to win it and would also like to thank the organizers for organizing the tournament”.
Osanda Umayanga was awarded the MVP of the tournament while Sri Lanka Air Force Skipper Ravi Dodangoda was awarded the finals MVP award. The best defensive player award was bagged by Dilan Sampath of Sri Lanka Army while Suraj Balasuriya was awarded the best offensive player.
Chief Organizer, Valluvan Logendra speaking to ThePapare.com said, “It is quite tough to organize a tournament in Batticaloa. Since it is far away from Colombo teams does not favor much. There is a slight sadness that the host team were unable to reach the final stage but I think all in all it was a good tournament. I would like to thank ThePapare.com for coverage and also all the sponsors who were a part of the tournament. We are hoping to organize another tournament towards the end of this year”.