Gold in Goa
I am in Goa, India right now and our national team is celebrating winning the Gold Medal at the Lusofonia Games. This is an event where almost 1000 athletes compete in different sports from Portuguese speaking countries or those that have a common past with Portugal. The opening ceremony was "Olympic like" and we marched around the stadium in front of 30,000 people.
The basketball tournament started with us opening up with Guinea Bissau. Although close in the beginning we played really well to extend a large half time lead and cruised to an 82-48 win. Our second match-up was against the favorite and highly ranked Angola team. We probably played our best basketball of the tournament in the first half to extend an 18 point lead at halftime. The large Indian crowd was loud and more energetic than any I have seen since I've been here. I knew it wasn't over. They made a strong comeback on us but we held them off for a 78-75 win. This was probably the biggest win for the men's Indian national team in over a decade.
We were now 2-0 and faced Cape Verde in the semi-finals. This was another country that is rated higher than we are in the FIBA rankings. The game was back and forth through 3 quarters. We executed much better in the fourth quarter and pulled away for the 15 point win.
We now had to face Angola again who beat a very strong Mozambique team in the semi-finals. I'm not sure many people gave us much chance to beat them for a second time. The arena was jam packed for this Gold Medal game. It was much like games I had experienced in the NBA and at the college level when the home crowd can be a big factor. They were chanting "I-N-D-I-A" at a high volume. This is something national teams seldom experience because games are usually played in other countries. For a second night in a row the score was close through three quarters with many lead changes. The NBA type bodies of Angola dominated us on the boards but we managed to execute our offense for a high shooting percentage while playing good enough defense to limit their scoring. We again stepped up in the fourth quarter and it was the 3 point shot that sealed the victory in the end. We ended up hitting 13 threes in the game which is very unusual for us.
I can't tell you how proud I am of our players and how happy I am for India basketball. It has been a long time since they have had this kind of success where they can have real pride in their country's team. It was a privilege to stand up on the podium with my players and coaches and listen to the Indian national anthem being played during the medal ceremony. Mostl of all I want to thank God for this opportunity He has given me. Salt and Light