Mumbai, Dec 2 (UNI) Underdogs UPL-Rest of India shocked favourites and defending champions Southern Railway, Chennai, 101-94 in a pulsating women's final to clinch their maiden title in the 3rd All India United Phosphorous Savio Cup Basketball Tournament, at Don Bosco School, Matunga here today.
UPL-Rest of India surprised their accomplished rivals by maintaining a steady lead right through an eventful and fast-paced championship round to deny Southern a third Savio Cup title in a row.
UPL-Rest were powered by Sophie Sam's brilliant all round performance, coupled with Anju Lakra's, Bharati Netam's and Pushpa's impressive finishing.
UPL-Rest got off to a dream start and led 51-41 at half-time, with Southern initiating a brief comeback in the second quarter.
But, buoyed by their advantage, an upbeat UPL-Rest went on to swell their lead by about 20 points with a minute and a half remaining in the thrilling fourth and final quarter.
True to their reputation, Southern did not give up and capitalised on UPL-Rest's slew of fouls under pressure to close in at 94-99 with just 16 seconds on the clock, before a decisive two-pointer in the last second by an unmarked Lakra sealed a nail-biting victory.
''We played to a plan and blocked Geethu Anna Jose, their mainstay. It proved to be effective, because by the third quarter she was nowhere in the picture,'' revealed UPL-Rest of India manager Sunder Balasubramaniam.
''That gave us the edge and with an 80 per cent conversion rate we surged to that crucial 20-point lead. Southern gave us a fright in those last seconds, but that big lead proved decisive in the end,'' he added.
RESULTS (FINALS): WOMEN: UPL-Rest of India 101 (Sophie Sam 23, Anju Lakra 20, Bharati Netam 18) bt Southern Rly 94 (Geethu Anna Jose 29, P. Anitha 23, N.
Shyamala 11). HT: 51-41.