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Basketball U17 ISSO

Any sports player will tell you that competitive sports are incredibly difficult. The hours of training, playing, and failing take their toll. But motivated people play anyway. They slam a tennis racket even when their arms are about to fall off, they kick a football even when they can’t move their legs, and they dribble a basketball even when their fingers go numb. Qualifying at a national tournament is not an easy feat, and it’s one that both Ascend’s U17 boys and U14 girls teams achieved.

Jaipur is a beautiful city, but its arid climate is not well-suited for sports. The home school– Jayshree Periwal International School (JPIS) has a massive campus, with many hostel buildings, five full-sized basketball courts, and even a castle-shaped building.

Our first match was against Indus Bangalore. We played very steal-heavy, with a fast nab of the ball followed by a race to the opponent’s basket. With our quick offenders deftly grabbing the ball and putting it back up before the other team could notice, we won easily: 45-25. Next, the girls played against Omega intl. With much the same mindset, they too won by a large point margin: 19-2. We noticed that both teams seemed to follow the win-loss pattern throughout the tournament; if one team won, so did the other, and vice versa.

Day 2 was not an easy day for us. The boys team were playing against the notorious Corvuss, a team that had won the entire national tournament in the U19 category. However, with only 5 players on their team, we had our hopes high. One of their players always took the ball and ran straight towards our basket, with the referee handing him free-throws every time, much to our chagrin. We continued playing, but with our coaches yelling at the refs and a heated atmosphere between both teams, we eventually lost by only 6 points, 30-24.

The evening game between our U14 girls team and the home school (JPIS) was no doubt the most memorable event of the trip. With only the U17 team and a few parents sitting on our sidelines cheering on our team, and more than 100 JPIS supporters flooding the stadium, tensions were running high. Both sides got into a shouting face-off that was vaguely reminiscent of an India-Pak match. With chants of “LET'S GO AIS!”, every point triggered an eruption as the crowd stood up and cheered, and every missed shot a wave of sullen faces and consolatory claps. The energy at that match was truly galvanizing, with crowds gathering outside the fence to watch. The girls team eventually lost, but we considered it a win anyways, having bravely taken on the home team and put on a show of support unlike anything we had ever seen before.

Day 3 was full of energy and excitement as both teams emerged victorious allowing us to qualify for the next round of the national tournament. With our boys and girls playing Pathways Noida, we were able to advance further. The boys “blew out” Pathways with the final score being 33-9. We were ecstatic to see ourselves prosper after the hours of training and sweat we put into this game. The girls clinched their victory with the final score 9-4. The girls and boys were thrilled by their wins and celebrated with paneer and gulab jamun.

The boys found themselves facing JPIS, the home team. Since our encounter with them was extremely heated during the girls match, we found ourselves more motivated than ever, but still not overconfident. JPIS had a beast of a player, who was 6”6. He was the face of their team, and while warming up we devised strategies to guard him. They proved ineffective because of his height, as opposed to ours. The game started, and JPIS had a great start, quickly scoring some baskets. We found ourselves on the backfoot, but then we started shooting three pointers. We were able to convert some, but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with them. They were leading throughout the game, hitting tough shots. We found ourselves heavily trailing in the 3d quarter, but decided to power through and try to reduce the lead as much as we could. We were unable to hold off JPIS, allowing them to score more and more baskets. We were devastated after the game, but decided to hold our heads high as this was the first national tournament we have played.

-Aarav Ajmera and Arjun Mehrotra 

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