Nepal’s performance at the Women’s SABA Championships 2016

Nepal Women's Basketball team at Women's SABA 2016

This is a guest article on Nepal’s performance at the recent Women’s SABA Championships basketball tournament held in Kathmandu by Sanjay Byanjankar Jr.

The first ever Women’s SABA Championships basketball tournament concluded on April 2; Sri Lanka bagged the winner’s trophy, Nepal settled for second and Maldives stood third…

I am sure this tournament has been a good international exposure for teams such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and even Nepal.

While Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives were on their debut international basketball tournament, it was Nepal’s third international full court 5-5 tournament ( if i am right- they played Asian games at South Korea, invitation game at Chennai, SAG was cancelled).

Nepal women’s basketball national team had been practicing for a long time for the South Asian Games (SAG). Around 5-6 months of hard preparation later, sadly, basketball event was cancelled. Following that they trained for 2 more months as the first women’s SABA Championships was eminent.

The tournament started on March 29. Nepal played its first game against Bangladesh; followed by Maldives and Bhutan; and the big finale against Sri Lanka.

I had been following the Sri Lankan basketball activity on facebook for a long time now. I knew they had different levels of game being organised in their country.

I didn’t know much about Bangladesh Bhutan and Maldives basketball. But still, knowing it was their first international tournament, I was pretty sure they had the same level as ours or may be lower.

As for Nepal women’s basketball team, we all knew how our girls play. We have been watching their game for a long time now.

Sneha Shrestha
Sneha Shrestha, Nepal vs Maldives

The game against Bangladesh and Maldives clearly showed that our level of basketball was higher than theirs because we had scored around 90+ points both games.

However, Sri Lanka was doing better; scoring 100+ points in their first three matches. So if not prior to the tournament, it was clear that Sri Lanka would be our biggest foe.

Come the finale against Sri Lanka, the first half of the game was interesting…and it stayed that way up until the third quarter. I don’t exactly remember the scores but the gap was only around 10 points.

As expected the Sri Lankan players were better than ours. They had good guards, old but experienced post players, some good shooters and their bench were filled with young and experienced players.

On the host side, we had decent players. Moral was high and they were focused towards the big game.

I definitely saw some good plays but then I also saw these players unable to show the best of what they have…. may be playing it their way wasn’t the option…. may be the coach didn’t formulate a strategy to suit their strength.

Nepal team bench
Anusha in tears, Gyanu and Preeti try to comfort her. Team captain, Sadina Shrestha (left),; Maya Shyangtan (right) look devastated as the team was on the verge of defeat.

It was a tough fight for our girls. They fought well in the first half but couldn’t keep pace in the second. Emotion was high. Tears were shed.

Unfortunately, we missed a lot of outside shots and we had a lot of turnovers. We couldn’t hold on to the game; too many missed shots, turnovers and the game pressure lead to a defeat by over 20pts.

Our players were frustrated as they started losing possession on that full court press by the Lankans. And the yelling from the coach didn’t help.

I wonder how the players are supposed to play when the coach starts yelling out in such type of game. Matter of fact coach should always motivate them in every moment on the court; if he has to yell at them it is at the training period not on the court. They were already in pressure on the court why would he add some more.

We only scored 16 field goals out of 51 attempts, 11 of 25 free throws and conceded 40 turnovers.

On the other hand, the Sri Lankans played like some of our boys do. They had good fundamentals, good game sense, most of the players had good dribbling and could shoot from behind the arc. They could shoot jumpers and pull up shots.

It was really amazing to see them do these stuffs while our girls were still struggling with catch and shoot, one dribble pull up shot and left hand lay up.

Signs were there from the beginning. Although we won our first three matches with big margins, we had 40 turnovers; and scored only 37 out of 78 shots and 4 out of 26 free throws against Maldives. Anusha and Luniva both had 10+ turnovers individually.

Anusha as a point guard she had a lot of miss-passes where as Luniva who is playing as a power forward gave away turnovers on travel violation.

Luniva Singh
Luniva Singh, Nepal vs Sri Lanka

I can’t understand how a player who had been playing so many domestic games and some international games can concede turnovers so often on that basic step. Is it because she has been training the same way at the practice?? Hasn’t anyone been able to guide her right through that steps??

However, on this very game against Maldives, Luniva and Sneha had a great combination…. the high low moves from this two stars were excellent. Luniva nearly had a triple double on this very game. She had 10+points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists while Sneha contributed 28points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists.

I remember Luniva from a long ago. Her game hasn’t changed much. She is very much limited on the moves from one area. Her left hand is still yet to be used; and most of her strong trade mark move on the low post was negated by travel violation. Why hasn’t she done anything about it? Yes she has improved her shooting style and accuracy but then she was still not confident on her mid range shots.

Anusha Malla Thakuri
Anusha Malla Thakuri, Nepal vs Sri Lanka

Our team game much improved against Bhutan compared to earlier matches. We had 26 turnovers, 37 of 104 filed goals and 12 of 24 free throws.

Anusha had 12 points, 7 rebounds 4 steal and 9 assists. Sneha had 14 points, 14 rebounds, 1 block and 5 assists Luniva had 16 points 8 rebounds and 3 assists.  Alisha Malla hit 3 three pointers, Bhawana had 22 points and 6 steals. Everybody had good contribution on this day.

Bhawana Lama is a player to watch. Very strong, good speed and a good game sense. She had been a great shooter in the domestic scene. But here in this tournament she struggled with the 3 point shots. Bar the first game she scored only 3 out of 26 from the 3 point line.

Bhawana Lama
Bhawana Lama, Nepal vs Sri Lanka

Overall, what I saw was, our team still lacked a lot of team coordination. I sometimes even think that it might be due to domestic rivalry between the two sets of players which basically make up the national team. Most of the time they are playing against each other in the domestic games and possibly they still have that sense of rivalry even when they are playing together (I am not sure though).

I didn’t even see them communicating on the court. I never heard the guards shouting or calling any plays. Every time it was the coaches.

Some players should be groomed with the basic fundamentals, the new young players like Shreya and Alina should be pushed as they have lot of potential we could use.

Sneha and Luniva should still improve their mid range shots; if possible Sneha should be pushed to the 3 points shots as well.

Didn’t see much of Gyanu Gauchan. May be she has lost her form or was it some other reason? but couple of years ago, Gyanu was a player to watch.

Preeti Tulachan
Preeti Tulachan, Nepal vs Maldives

Preeti had a good game. Maya, despite her short height, had satisfactory game too. She was shooting well from behind the arc.

Alisha Malla was our best 3 point shooter but in some matches she hesitated to shoot even when she was free.

Sujata Rai used to be a good point guard during the domestic games. She also has number of international game experience. She has good ball handling and good sense of the game; but in this tournament I didn’t see much from her.

For a short line up like ours, all the players should be good with the dribbling and shooting from different ranges. If this can be done Nepal team will be ready to compete against the Sri Lankans next time.

But then winning the silver is not bad. Not bad at all.

Despite the loss though, I am sure most of us are still happy to see our girls playing at home for the first time against international team.

Nepali basketball fans
Nepali basketball fans, all behind the team

The crowd was amazing, whole parapet was fully packed. I didn’t notice this much crowd even in the men’s SABA Championships 2 years back unless I have forgotten.

This team definitely won many hearts. I was proud to see them play. And I am every bit hopeful that the basketball scenario is going to rise up in Nepal very soon.

Follow Sanjay on his facebook page.

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Sanjay Byanjankar Jr

About Sanjay Byanjankar Jr

Sanjay Byanjankar is a Nepali national basketball player (2005-2013). He started is basketball career from South Siders basketball club. Recently he has been working as a basketball instructor at schools.