Mumbai, Nov 18 (UNI) Indian star Riyazuddin fired the winning basket in the last second to lead defending champion ONGC to a pulsating 67-66 win over formidable Rest of India in the opening men's round robin league match, in the 4th UPL Savio Cup basketball tournament at the Don Bosco School, Matunga here today.
With just 29 seconds remaining and the clock ticking, national runners-up and favourites ONGC trailed 64-66 as they stared at defeat against a gallant Rest. But they initiated a decisive attack that saw Riyazuddin receive a crucial pass which ended in the international bringing his vast experience and shooting a three-pointer to snatch it away from Rest of India.
Rest got off to a dream start with a 20-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. But ONGC, who were taken by surprise, shot back in the second quarter to enjoy a slender 36-34 lead at half-time.
A thrilling third quarter followed with both teams setting a blistering pace and snatching the lead in quick succession, as shooters matched each other basket for basket and fortunes fluctuated rapidly.
ONGC held on to a 60-52 advantage with four minutes, 40 seconds remaining. But Rest reduced the margin brilliantly with Suresh firing a crucial three-pointer and Arjun Singh scoring two points.
ONGC then capitalized on a foul and shot to a 62-59 lead with two minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the racy encounter. But a basket by Suresh brought Rest to within one point of drawing level in a tight contest that brought the packed stands to the edge of their seats.
ONGC continued to lead at 64-61, but another brilliant shot by Rest's Jagdeep Singh reduced the margin to 63-64 with 56 seconds to go.
Rest of India were fortunate to earn free throws back-to-back that would have allowed them to take the lead and put the pressure back on ONGC. But instead, the pressure told on Jagdeep as he bungled the first two attempts. He finally made amends and found the mark off another free throw to draw level at 64-64 with 40 seconds to go.
Ten seconds later, Rest earned another free throw and a nervous Jagdeep again squandered the opportunity. But, off his second attempt, an opportunistic Suresh pounced on the rebound to give a delighted Rest a 66-64 lead.
With only 29 seconds remaining, Rest had reason to believe they had the match in their grasp, until ONGC surged forward in that final move and Riyazuddin scored the winning basket for a nail-biting finish.
For the winners, Riyazuddin scored 20 points including two three-pointers, while Suresh Ranot scored 15 and Mohit Bhandari scored 10.
For Rest, Jagdeep scored a remarkable 31 points including seven three-pointers and Suresh scored 12 with two three-pointers.
Result: ONGC 67 (Riyazuddin 20, Suresh Ranot 15, Mohit Bhandari 20) bt Rest of India 66 (Jagdeep Singh 31, Suresh 12). HT: 36-34.
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