The South Asian Basketball Championship 2018, concluded in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Sri Lanka sweeping clean the championship taking themselves to the second-round qualifiers of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021.
This week on Swishing the Nets, Basketball in 05 minutes, we explore the winning formula that put the Lankan lads on top position. The victorious Coach, Susil Udukumbura articulates his thinking.
Q: Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh, 65-34, What was your game plan for the first match?
At first, when we were making plans on the tournament, we knew that we won`t be playing any matches on day one. The other four participants, had matches on day one.
That was the best chance I got to observe these teams before Sri Lanka played them. Together with my assistant coach, we watched all the matches and identified their key players.
For the SABA 2018, Bangladesh possessed a good height advantage unlike in the past and even though they were head-to-head with Sri Lanka on that aspect, they lacked pace and played a very slow game. game.
Our prime plan was to defend their key player. We handed that job over to Praneeth Udumalagala. It was a tactical change of shifting Praneeth`s focus from offense to defense and it worked out, he did a brilliant job. As a contingency plan, if Praneeth was beaten, Gayan De Cross was set to help him in the defense since we played a sagging man-to-man defense.
Q: Sri Lankan bench went on to score 48 points in the second match. What was the plan behind the rotation of players?
The second match was set to be played against Nepal. We stepped in with the plan of playing a sagging man-to-man defense, utilizing our height. But, Nepal`s counter-attack was aggressive and they played a faster-paced game.
Most of the time, during the first half, our centers were drawn towards and beaten. Then I changed the defensive tactics into 2-3 zonal defense.
Then, the Sri Lankan bench was strong. I believe that was one of the biggest strengths we were equipped with this year. Apart from my first five, I had players such as Clinton Thevakumar, Timothy Nithushan and Charith Perera. So, I had the luxury to be able to rotate the combination without hesitancy and to experiement next best combination to win the game.
Q: How did you plan on beating the Maldivians?
Well (Laughs), first I should tell that, when Sri Lanka was ready to fly for the tournament, my aim was to play hard and well against both Maldives and Bangladesh. I believe that we as a country should not fall into a place where we lose games for both of those countries. Our basketball standards are very high in comparison because we have a good base of school’s basketball.
Maldives did not possess the height advantage at all. So, we thought we`ll utilize ours more. I am sure they also planned how to play against our height. So, I bought in another player who had good height to surprise them, Kisal Cooray, who played a brilliant game. Bringing Kisal in helped to dominate the floor and win the game.
Praneeth Udumalagala who came back from USA had very little time to re-adjust himself to our playing style. I always gave him a free hand and told him to play his natural game, eventually he picked up and scored well the against Maldives.
Q: Lot of youngsters received exposure in the final match. Was it the plan from the beginning?
Well I never intended to take my opposition lightly in any matchup. During the first half, I used my best players and went hard at the opposition. At a certain points of the match Sri Lanka was leading the game with 30 plus points.
Then I also thought that the junior players too must get exposure in the international arena. Even though they made mistakes once substituted them in and let them continue, because that would be their learning curve. They must take on the future sport in the country.
We were delighted to bench down with this winning formula and wish him and his team all the strength in the future.