The Men’s semi-finals of the 51st senior nationals were played on the 21st of February 2017 at the Police Park Basketball court. Mercantile BA took on SL Air Force in the 1st of the semis whilst Hambantota BA took on Colombo BA in the 2nd.
Semi Final 1
Mercantile BA vs. SL Air Force: Airmen stun Mercantile BA
Mercantile BA edged ahead of the Airmen in the 1st quarter, taking the period 19-18. Mercantile continued to score to prevent SL Air Force from coming back in the 2nd quarter although the latter had quite a few runs which looked threatening (37-33).Gavi Cooray, an important piece for Air Force, playing at the Power Forward spot, had 4 fouls in the very 1st half reminiscent of the Hambantota BA encounter in their group decider!
Antony Venito played like a man possessed for SL Air Force in the 3rd quarter and scored points in bunches via dribble penetration lay-ups, fending off bigger defenders shot block attempts using his body. However the Airmen were dealt a heavy blow when Gavi was given a technical foul (Improper behavior) and was fouled out of the game. Venito continued his one-man assault and closed the gap to 1 point (56-55).
Although Gayan De Croos and Clinton Stallone made several shots in the 4th quarter to put the Airmen away, they could not find an answer to the dribble penetration of the 5’9” shooting guard Venito who continued to score points in the paint. The Airmen were dealt another blow when Venito was fouled out (5 personal fouls) with 4:30 minutes left on the clock. With 2 of their key players out of the game, the captain of SL Air Force Ravi Dodangoda stepped his game up by a quite a few gears and scored points in streaks. The game went back and forth in the dying minutes. With 53 seconds on the clock, Mercantile led 73-71 but the inability to convert possessions to points led to Nishen Savindu shooting a free throw and Gratian Anthony making a crucial under the Basket shot via Ravi’s drive and dish put SL Air Force ahead with 11 seconds on the clock. Thimothi Nithushan made a tough contested attempt for a game winner for Mercantile BA but it was no good and so were the tip- ins. SL Air Force progressed to the final, upsetting the favourites’ chances of repeating their championship winning performance.
Sanjeewa Kulamina top scored for Mercantile BA with 16 points followed by Gayan De Croos with 14 points. Rajitha Hettiarachchi and Clinton Stallone had 9 points each.
Final scores: Mercantile BA 73 – SL Air Force 74
Top scorer: Venito Antony 28 Points (SL Air Force)
Osanda Umayanga (SL Air Force)
“We played well as a team. Our main focus was on defense and we executed it as one unit. We received great contribution from all the players in our team. In the finals (Against Colombo BA) we will once again be focusing on our defense and rebounding. A big thank you to everyone who has been with us thus far.”
Clinton Stallone (Mercantile BA)
“We had chemistry issues throughout the tournament. We come from different teams in the mercantile sector. Personally this is a great experience to play with the best players from different teams in the mercantile sector. No hard feelings on losing the match, that’s the nature of the game, the team which plays best wins it. Personally I would say losing a match by a point or more doesn’t matter. But after losing, the next step we take to win a championship is all that matters”.
Semi Final 2
Hambantota BA vs. Colombo BA: Hambantota BA’s semi-final curse continues as Colombo BA progresses
The game had a slow tempo to it, with both teams consisting of players with vast national and international level experience and opting to score off set plays. Colombo BA was dominant in the 1st quarter and took the period 10-19. Hambantota BA found its shooting touch in the 2nd quarter and managed to cut the deficit to 6 points by half time (23-29).
Hambantota BA began pounding the paint both by feeding the post and crashing the offensive boards and cut their deficit down to 1 point by the end of the 3rd passage of play (36-37). With 3:44 minutes on the clock the scores were tied on 44 all. The scores were tied again with 2:30 at 46 all. Kenneth made a basket off a loose ball to give Colombo BA the lead with 1:12 minutes on the clock (49-46). Colombo BA’s Power Forward Sudesh Ahamed aggravated an injury he had to his leg in a nasty fall and couldn’t play the remainder of the game with 41 seconds on the clock!
Both teams made a few Free throws and Colombo BA were slightly ahead at 50-49 with 24 seconds to go when Chamath Danawansa drove in and dished to Tharindu Sankalpa for an under the basket with 13 seconds on the game clock. Hambantota BA’s attempt to tie the score was no good and Colombo BA emerged victorious and have progressed on to the finals to meet SL Air Force.
Final scores : Hambantota BA 49 vs. Colombo BA 52
Top scorer : – Sudesh Ahamed 18 Points (Colombo BA)
Chamath Danawansa (Star Point Guard/ Ex National Captain, Colombo BA) – Winning team
“We were well prepared for this game. We had to come up with strategies to beat a really good Hambantota BA side and managed to execute them. It was a very tough encounter but we played really hard and executed our plans to win this game using both contributions from our Experience and youth. We are now preparing for our Finals against SL Air Force. It is a little difficult to play matches at a stretch (5 games in 7 days); but it is the case for our opposition as well. So we are ready for tomorrow’s game to provide a good competition”.
Kasun Uyangoda (Shooting Guard, Hambantota BA) – Losing team
“It is close to 2 years since we played as a team. I personally am playing this tournament after the previous Mercantile (Knock-out) tournament which was sometime back. Half of our Club players, played this tournament representing Mercantile BA (As usual for the senior nationals). It is a good thing that we made it this far in the tournament. But Sri Lanka needs more Basketball tournaments. Not only ours, but all the players’ performance levels have dropped because of the lack of club basketball tournaments in the country. We are hoping that we will have Club basketball tournaments in the future or we will see a drop in the standard of basketball in Sri Lanka.”
Injury Report : Sudesh Ahamed (Injured Knee and Ankle) – Return for the finals questionable.